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TEA-DRINKING IN INDIA

Whether you travel from north to south or from west to east, India's national borders are separated by a distance of well over 3,000 kilometres. And in a country of this scale, it is hardly a surprise to encounter so many different religions, languages and traditions. Despite this diversity, Indians tend to be united whenever it comes to tea. The best types of tea in the country come from its fertile growing areas, but its finest Darjeelings and Assams tend to be exported to other nations. Evidence of this is seen in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and was originally built to transport tea from the growing fields of Darjeeling to the city of Siliguri, some 2,000 metres lower. The British began construction of this engineering masterpiece in 1880, just as they developed Darjeeling as the centre of Bengali tea production and encouraged production of tea in the neighbouring state of Assam.

Nowadays, tea is transported from these places on lorries, and the old steam train is used principally by tourists. Even so, its history is kept alive, and passengers still drink, tea while they travel through the glorious mountain scenery. Indians have a lot of great recipes that use tea, many of which involve mixing it with salt or goat’s milk. The is a also often served with milk and spices, in the form of what people would call a chai latte and what Indians call masala chai. There is no standard recipe for this concoction, but it tends to involve Assam tea mixed with various spices, milk and sugar. Tea sellers stand on street corners, tempting passers-by with their distinctive cry: "Chai garam, masala chaaaaai!"