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Tea and India go back a long way. In fact, it first appeared in the ancient scripts of the Ramayana. According to legend, Lakshman, the brother of Lord Rama was injured in a battle with Ravana. Hanuman, Lord Rama’s pupil was sent to bring the ‘Sanjeevani Booti’, a plant found only in the Himalayas. The leaves of this plant were applied to Lakshman’s wounds and he healed miraculously. Sanskrit scholars believe the ‘Sanjeevani Booti’ is tea itself.

The tribal in India enjoyed a hot cup of tea by brewing the tea leaves in hot water. Deeming the leaves as valuable, they started trading the leaves for other goods. It was in one such trade market that a young Scottish adventurer, Robert Bruce encountered these leaves. He noticed the locals brew the leaves of this wild plant. Intrigued by this practice, Bruce met the local chief Bessa Gam and arranged to procure the leaves to get them scientifically examined.

Unfortunately, before he could send the leaves for testing, Robert passed away. Seven years later, Robert’s brother, Charles arranged for the leaves to be tested at the Calcutta botanical gardens. There, the plant was identified as a variety of Camellia Sinensis, a popular Chinese tea plant.

Soon, a tea board was formed in India and tea was advertised. Its popularity and consumption increased two-fold with North Indians adding milk to the brew and South Indians adding spices to the infusion. The world’s leading tea producing nation made tea a part of everyday life. Today, you’ll find a tea stall at every nook and corner of major cities in India with each having their own version of the tea. People from Delhi prefer the ‘Malai-maarke’ version which is Indian Masala Chai served with a dallop of fresh cream while Mumbaikars love their ‘cutting chai’ or half a cup of tea. The highways of Northern India are marked by smaller outlets that brew and serve tea in earthen pots called ‘khullad’. Wherever you go in India, you’ll always find tea.

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