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As the second largest producer of tea in the world, India is a haven unlike any other for tea lovers. We have rounded up a list of seven regional tea preparations that any tea connoisseur in the country ought to try at some point.
This brisk and malty black tea comes from the state of Assam, the world’s largest tea-growing area. Assam teas and blends are popular worldwide as breakfast teas. While Irish breakfast teas typically consist of small-sized Assam tea leaves, English breakfast teas are usually a blend of black teas, including Assam leaves. Unlike Darjeeling and Nilgiri teas, which grow atop hills, Assam tea is planted in the lowlands near the bank of the river Brahmaputra—a contributing factor to its distinct malty taste.
Originating from the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Kangra tea was once among the finest Indian teas. While it is lesser known than other teas and with lower production levels, Kangra tea is slowly being revived with hopes of re-discovering its former glory. Available as green and black tea, Kangra tea is uniquely fragrant with a distinct earthy taste.
Known as the “Champagne of Teas,” Darjeeling tea is from the northernmost district of the state of West Bengal. Primarily sold as black tea, Darjeeling tea is also available as green, white and oolong teas. Mostly thin bodied and with a distinct floral taste, Darjeeling teas are immensely popular in India and around the world.
This dark, strong and intensely aromatic tea comes from plantations on the southern part of the Western Ghats mountain range, which spreads across the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Often used in blends, owing to its rich flavor, Nilgiri tea is among India’s most popular caffeinated exports.
Kahwa, a traditional preparation of spiced green tea, is the drink to have if you’re in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir. Immensely popular in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan as well, this tea is prepared by boiling green tea leaves with a range of spices, including saffron, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Another popular Kashmiri tea preparation, Noon Chai, or Sheer Chai, is mostly known for being distinctly pink in color. Made by brewing tea leaves along with cardamom and baking soda until a bright pink color is achieved, this tea is usually accompanied by milk and salt.
Gur Gur Chai, or butter tea, is popular in several Himalayan regions, including the Indian areas of Ladakh and Sikkim. Made from tea leaves, yak butter, and salt, this thick and creamy tea provides the caloric energy that is needed to survive when living at high altitudes. Also available with cow butter, this tea comes in tiny cups that are refilled faster than you can blink—but it’s delicious, so no one is complaining!