Indian Black Tea: Origins and Types


India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, second only to China. Popular Indian black teas include teas like Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri. India also produces many types of black tea that are added to breakfast blends like English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast, as well as flavored blends like Masala Chai. Indian black teas tend to be robust and full-bodied in character, and are usually high in caffeine.



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The History of Indian Black Tea

The camellia sinensis tea plant is native to northern and eastern India and has been cultivated on a small scale for hundreds of years. Camellia sinensis var. assamica is the varietal of the tea plant indigenous to India, and typically makes for a stronger, more robust black tea. Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is indigenous to China, and is usually mellower and more subtle in character. Almost all Indian black teas, with the exception of Darjeeling, are produced from the camellia sinensis var. assamica varietal.

While tea had been grown in India for centuries, it was first produced on a large scale for commercial purposes by the British East India Company during British colonial rule. Since then, India has grown to become a dominant player in the tea industry, producing a huge volume of exported tea each year. Tea is also a popular drink in India itself, and India consumes almost 15 times as much tea as coffee.

Indian Black Tea vs. Chinese Black Tea

Most India black teas are made from camellia sinensis var. assamica, the varietal of the tea plant native to India. Most Chinese black teas are made from camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which is native to southern China. Indian teas tend to be stronger and more robust, while Chinese teas tend to be mellower and more delicate. One notable exception to this general rule is Darjeeling tea, which is grown in India using tea plants of the camellia sinensis var. sinensis varietal. This gives Darjeeling a lighter and more subtle character than other types of Indian black tea. Indian black teas tend to stand up well to the addition of milk and sweetener, whereas Chinese black teas are often best enjoyed on their own.

Indian black tea is classified according to a tea grading system that grades tea based on the quality, size, and appearance of the loose tea leaves. Common tea grades under this system include OP (Orange Pekoe), FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe), and FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). In general, teas that are made from whole tea leaves and have a higher percentage of golden tips and buds are more desirable under this system. Tea dust and fannings, which are often used to make tea bags, can also be graded on a related scale.

Tea Growing Regions in India

Many types of Indian black teas are named after the region in which they are grown, including teas from Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri.

Assam

Tea is indigenous to the Assam region of India and has been growing there for hundreds of years. Assam tea is even the “state drink” of the region of Assam. Assam tea plants are of the camellia sinensis var. assamica variety. These teas are usually rich, bold, and full-bodied, and are often included in robust breakfast blends like Irish Breakfast and English Breakfast. Our Assam tea is a second flush tea with a FBOP grade and is a strong black tea with moderate astringency and notes of malt and spice.

Darjeeling

Teas grown in Darjeeling are typically produced from the camellia sinensis var. sinensis varietal, which gives them a lighter, more delicate flavor. Although tea is indigenous to India, these tea plants were actually imported to India under British colonial rule. Darjeeling is sometimes referred to as the “champagne of teas.” We carry a second flush Darjeeling with a grade of FTGFOP1, as well as a first flush Darjeeling from the Monteviot Estate, also with a grade of FTGFOP1. First flush Darjeeling teas are harvested in the early spring and are often lighter and more delicate than second flush Darjeeling teas, making them especially desirable for connoisseurs.

Nilgiri

While not as well-known as Assam or Darjeeling, Nilgiri is an up-and-coming region in the world of tea. Nilgiri is located in the southwest of India. These teas tend to be slightly milder than hearty Assams, but more robust than Darjeelings. Like Assam teas, Nilgiri teas are produced from the native varietal of the tea plant, camellia sinensis var. assamica. Our Nilgiri tea is rich and aromatic, with notes of honey and stone fruit.

Indian Black Tea and Masala Chai

Masala Chai, which means “spiced tea” in Hindi, is a popular tea-based drink in the region. Masala Chai is often prepared by steeping black tea leaves, sugar, and a variety of spices in steaming milk. The resulting concoction is a sweet, spicy cup of tea with a full body and satisfying warmth. Masala Chai is an extremely popular drink in India, and has also gained popularity worldwide.

The Benefits of Indian Black Tea

Like other types of tea made from the camellia sinensis tea plant, black tea has a variety of health benefits. Black tea is high in antioxidants, which can help to promote cellular health and ward off degenerative disease. Black tea has also been shown to boost heart health, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion. A cup of black tea can help soothe symptoms of a sore throat or the common cold, and can also help to reduce inflammation and headache pain. Black tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine (about half that of a cup of coffee) and is a mild stimulant that can give you a boost of energy. Tea also contains l-theanine, a beneficial component that reduces stress and encourages calm and focus.

Our Indian Black Teas

Here at ArtfulTea we carry a variety of high-quality black teas sourced from India. These include regional varieties like Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri, as well as tea blends like Star of India, Irish Breakfast, and English Breakfast. Many of these teas are ideal for making your own homemade version of chai, tea lattes, and more. They’re also delicious consumed on their own or with a splash of milk and sugar.



 

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