The consumption of tea in India was first clearly documented in the Ramayana (750-500 BC). For the next thousand years, documentation of tea in India was lost in history. Records re-emerge during the first century AD, with stories of the Buddhist monks Bodhidharma and Gan Lu, and their involvement with tea. Research shows that tea is indigenous to eastern and northern India, and was cultivated and consumed there for thousands of years. Commercial production of tea in India did not begin until the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production.
Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, with over 70% of the tea being consumed within India itself. A number of renowned teas, such as Assam and Darjeeling, also grow exclusively in India. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands, and has evolved to one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world. Tea production, certification, exportation, and all other facets of the tea trade in India is controlled by the Tea Board of India.
The cultivation and brewing of tea in India has a long history of applications in traditional systems of medicine and for consumption. The practice of Ayurveda has resulted in a long-standing tradition of herbal teas. Traditional Indian kitchens have long utilised the medicinal benefits offered by various plants and spices such as basil (Tulsi), cardamom (Elaichi), pepper (Kali Mirch), liquorice (Mulethi), mint (Pudina), etc., and traditionally, teas made with these plant leaves and/or spices have been in use for centuries for maladies ranging from the serious to the trifling. Tea is also mixed with these traditional herbs. The taste of chai (sweet and milky) helps disguise the stronger and more bitter flavours of some of the medicinal additives, while other, more pleasant flavours such as cardamom and ginger add a pleasing flavour and aroma to the tea along with health benefits.
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