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Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding hot water over the leaves of Camellia Sinensis. India is the world’s largest consumer of tea and second largest producer of tea. Today on ‘The International Tea Day’, let us know how ‘Chai’ became an integral part of our life.In ancient India, a concoction was made by brewing herbs and spices named as ‘Kada’. The Kada had medicinal properties. There are many versions of stories of how the first cup of ‘Chai’ came to India.One story says that Chai was developed by accident when a Buddhist Monk on his way to China observed the rituals of the locals chewing on a few wild leaves. He tried it and felt rejuvenated and decided to bring it back with him.Tea is believed to have been first discovered by mistake 5000 years ago when the Emperor of China found tea leaves in his pot of boiling water. He tasted it out of curiosity and loved it. Thus, tea became a staple of Chinese culture. Dutch traveller John Huyghen Von Linschoten, who visited India in 1538 AD, wrote ‘Indians ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic and oil and boiled the leaves to make a brew’.Another story says that ‘Chai’ was developed by a king in ancient India Harshavardhana to remain alert during long court hour. There is another story that says ‘Sanjeevani buti’, which brought comatose Lakshman alive in the epic Ramayana, is the first Chai.Assam has a long historical connection with tea. In the 12th century, the Singhpo tribe used the tea shrub as medicine. They believe that the tea after the meal aids digestion. Tea historians believe that the milk was added to Chai by the travellers and traders from Gujarat, Maharastra and Bengal who had easy access to good quality milk.Today, there are a billion possible ways in which tea can be prepared in India, the most popular ones being Mumbai’s ‘Cutting Chai’, the ‘Irani Chai’ of Hyderabad, the fragrant ‘Darjeeling Chai’, the mellow ‘Assam Chai’, the strong ‘Masala Chai’ of Gujarat and the delicate pink ‘Kashmiri Chai’.
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