Does India have a tea culture?  Is there more to Indian tea than Masala Chai, or Milk Tea, as they call it?  Of course there is!  I am in India right now to find out.  I am also here because I was invited to speak at the first-ever Indian Tea Forum (ITF), which was held October 4-6, 2010, about promoting and marketing tea in America.  Dan Robertson, from The Tea House and World Tea Tours, was the other American asked to speak at this inaugural event.

Yes, India has a tea culture.  You cannot be growing and producing tea for 150 years and not have created a tradition or made an impact somewhere.  Countless lives are touched by running tea estates and plucking, drying, packaging, shipping, and sipping tea – the humble Camellia sinensis plant.

I posed the question about India’s tea culture at the ITF and left hundreds of Indian tea folks thinking, which is always a good thing.  I encouraged them to dig into their spiritual roots to create a new type of tea culture based on the ancient wisdom that looms large over this incredible country.

What a joy it is to be hosted by Mr. Rajiv Lochan from Lochan Tea.  It is by his invitation and his gracious hospitality that I am enjoying an entire month in the Darjeeling growing region of India.

At the very first ITF, there was joy and sadness.  We witnessed the last LIVE tea auction – a practice that has been part of the tea industry in India for 150 years – and then took part in the first-ever e-auction.  Yes, technology is alive and well here in India.  Hundreds gathered at the old auction house to find it all set up with laptops, and a new type of auction began.  This was big news in Siliguri, India – the host city of the ITF.

As with any new event, there is always room to grow and incredible things can happen.  This is what I wish for the wonderful and, most often, under-appreciated tea-growing folks in India.

There is a lot of love here in India and I am so privileged and honored to be witnessing this first hand as I am visiting tea estate after tea estate.  I am thrilled to be meeting families that have been in the tea fields for generations and seeing with my own eyes the joy simple tea leaves have brought to families for years and years.  They work hard – extremely hard – no doubt about that.  Most folks unwrapping a tea sachet or scooping tea leaves into a pot have no idea whatsoever all that goes into getting that tea to their kitchen table.  I am here to tell you that some blood, sweat, and tears go into the production, but also LOVE.  So drink up and look for teas grown in India – you will not be disappointed.

In North America, we are becoming very familiar with chai tea.  Let’s get smart here – what is being consumed in our local coffee-and-tea shops called “chai” is “Masala chai” – which means spiced tea.  “Masala” means spices or spiced, and “chai” means tea.  Traditionally, Indians are known for their wonderful spices; you will find cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and black pepper as the most common spices used in what we are familiar with.  Of course, some blenders will add a few new twists to this very old and well-known beverage in India.

Indian teas are named after the regions they are grown in.  Look for Assam, Nilgiri, and, of course, Darjeeling – these are three of the best-tasting and best-known Indian teas.  Traditionally, teas from here have been predominantly black teas, but watch out – many new varieties of white teas, green teas, oolongs, and even hand-rolled teas are emerging from these areas as well.

Drink up and enjoy the teas from this incredible country – Incredible India!

SOLIDARI-TEA

Divine solidarity unites us all.
From the beginning of time we have come here as one.
God was all there ever was
and ever will be.
All of us times God still equals one.
Me, I am one with God.
This divine cohesion assures me
that separation is eternally impossible.
Everything I was created to be I can now see.
I see my own goodness and my own Godness.
From this place of crystal clear vision,
I see my connection and cognation to
everything and everyone around me.
Thank you God, I stand in solidarity with all there is
and we have your strength;
indivisibility, inseparability yet with individuality.
For this gift, I express freely and
sincerely my deep gratitude every day.
I relinquish every thought of segregation and separation
and trust your divine wisdom  to show us the way,
the light and the truth.
Amen