India has a rich history of tea: From long-lasting Singpho tea, to chai in kulhad cups smashed on roads, to the “champagne of teas” of Darjeeling delicates, to homemade masala chai which accompanies daily activities. Tea in India is quite diverse and brewing techniques and teaware vary across regions, communities, castes, and socio-economic classes. Social media features a variety of perspectives and expertise on what exactly “tea” means across India. Instagram has become a popular and visually appealing blogging venue. Three tea bloggers in India have taken to the platform in their enthusiasm for tea. In email interviews, they have shared insight into their tea blogging experiences; their responses have been edited for cohesion and clarity.

Dr Indrita Saha, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Geography
@she.brews.tea (Kolkata)

Indrita was introduced to tea while she was posted as a faculty member in one of the reputed colleges of Darjeeling. Not only did she fall in love with the beverage, but she also met the tea-pluckers, the managers, and tea-tasters who cultivated her knowledge. Presently Indrita shares her tea experience through her Instagram account. Her hobbies include traveling, trekking, and cartography.

A cup of Darjeeling tea on a saucer, on an orange plate

What is your understanding of tea? How does that differ from chai?

For me, only the brew from Camellia sinensis is tea. It is fine if certain ingredients like marigold petals or rose petals are added to it. But anything without the presence of Camellia sinensis is no tea for me.

Chai and tea are the same for me. Though I know, recently many are using the term for the concoction made with tea leaves, milk and sugar, but for me it’s tea. Actually, if we consider the origin of this Chinese leaf, it is called ‘Tea’ in places it traveled by sea route and ‘chai’ in places it traveled by land. It’s the same thing.

What inspired you to create your tea blog?

I have been totally addicted to the YouTube channel ‘Mei Leaf’ for a long time now. I loved how Don encourages having better tea. His forte is Chinese tea. I struggled to find anything similar for Darjeeling tea. That was the first time I decided to start something for Darjeeling Tea. And when I had ample time during the lockdown, my Insta page she.brews.tea was born.

Tell us a memory about tea that has impacted you.

It’s more of a collection of memories. I never had tea regularly, until I was posted in Darjeeling for my job. My neighbour introduced me to this tea, taught me how to brew it, and I went to different tea gardens: learnt about the processing, tasted a variety of teas, tried to understand the differences. Of course, my students from the tea gardens gave me an insight into their daily lives and how much they were dependent on tea. More than memories, these are experiences that enriched me as a person. Whenever I take a sip now, I get transported to my Darjeeling. I am more conscious of the treacherous journey the leaf has made to come to my cup.

What do you aspire to achieve through your tea blog?

My blog primarily concentrates on Darjeeling Tea and how it differs from other teas. I intend to spread the word about Darjeeling tea and to help people understand this tea and its brewing process. Also it’s about the small stories related to tea.

What is a blog post of your own that is dear to your heart and why?

I wrote a blog regarding my first Darjeeling tea which took me back to my initial days of tea appreciation. The image brings back so many warm memories. And I found so many people connecting on this post. It is heart-warming to see how people had beautiful memories with tea.

Also here is a post on the logo of Darjeeling tea. It’s really close to my heart and it is the ultimate aim of the page: to help people have good, unadulterated Darjeeling tea. And the first step to identify Darjeeling Tea is the logo.

What connections have you made since creating your tea blog?

The best part is meeting like-minded people. I met tea traders who have identical thoughts regarding Darjeeling tea. I have interacted with skilled tea tasters who helped me understand tea better. I had the opportunity to taste a wide range of tea which I had never heard of. And coming to the best part, it started conversations outside the internet. People came up to me with different tea-related problems and it’s so satisfying to help them through it. Especially when they tell me that they could taste the complexity of flavour a lot better when they followed all my tips.

Who are some of your favorite tea bloggers?

Really a difficult one. Definitely Don of Mei Leaf, Nicole of Tea for Me Please and Marco of Steap’d Tea. Love them for their science, details, presentation, simplicity and aesthetics.

Manya Sharma
Chemical Engineer
@inves_tea_gator (Mumbai)

Manya Sharma is a chemical engineer who works in sustainability and circular economy in plastics by profession and is a tea lover and enthusiast by choice. Chai is a very important part of her culture and life. The pandemic pushed her to start her tea blog and use her writing and artistic skills to build her Instagram page.

What is your understanding of tea? How does that differ from chai?

Tea as a beverage will always be without milk and sugar for me. Even though the terms tea and chai are interchangeable in India, as a single sourced black tea enthusiast, I prefer not to mix the two. Chai needs to have milk and should be brewed over a pot. A fraction of people don’t put sugar, but ideally it is added. And if the ingredients are heated separately and added in a cup, I wouldn’t call it chai. As simple as the beverage can be (with only three base ingredients of water, tea, and milk) it is mandatory to boil and simmer them to get the essence of chai.
F.y.i masala chai is my favourite.

What inspired you to create your tea blog?

I have been drinking tea since I was 15 years old and chai since I can remember to talk. But it was only during the lockdown that I decided to document all the teas I had. My tea blog was just a visual diary for me on the internet. I wanted to be able to come back to a particular tea by a particular brand and be reminded of exactly how I felt about it. Finding a community and wonderful tea adventures was just a bonus. Infact, my inquisitive nature inspired my blog name: Inves-tea-gating!

Tell us a memory about tea that has impacted you.

Growing up, chai was a huge part of my childhood. Every adult I knew would drink at least 2-3 cups a day. It is our customary beverage for any guest or visitor. Even if it’s just a stranger, you have to offer them chai. As a winter drink in college, sharing a cup with friends, making chai for your family, I have countless memories with tea. So picking an isolated event can be tough. But tea has always been a source of comfort for me and that is probably because my Nani (maternal grandmother) would always give me tulsi chai whenever I got sick as a kid. Sharing that with her is something I will cherish forever.

What do you aspire to achieve through your tea blog?

What started as a documentation blog slowly shifted to an outlet for creativity. Being able to try different teas and recipes and create art inspired by it is what I would say my blog is about now. My blog serves as a creative medium for myself. I also love introducing people to the different kinds of tea through my blog. The aesthetic definitely gets me a lot of inquiries.

What is a blog post of your own that is dear to your heart and why? 

It is so hard to pick one, so I will link two! I love how this turned out visually as well as flavour-wise: A perfect summer’s drink, in my opinion.

Back when I relied mostly on tea bags, instead of throwing the tea bags away, I would paint on them because I know recycling tea bags can be challenging. One really memorable tea bag is the one on which I painted Starry Night to go with my tea.

What connections have you made since creating your tea blog?

I have made some truly heartening connections through my tea blog. Not only some small, local and international businesses and tea friends but also a lot of creators and tea lovers who continue to inspire me every day. It’s not all tea related either. The whole journey has been extremely educational and enlightening.

Who are some of your favorite tea bloggers?

It’s hard to pick favourites because oftentimes a person may not post a lot but has so much knowledge and are really lovely to interact with. I truly adore so, so many people but still, if I had to, in terms of blogs alone a few would be:
@Myteadaily (Cam is always trying new teas and tea pairing which inspire me to do my own inves-tea-gating. She also advocates for so many important topics that align with my own morals. It’s always a delight to hear from her.)
@Kiani Tea- (The brand Sara has built and all the amazing projects she takes are all so inspiring. Her blog is very aesthetically pleasing too! She puts so much effort into her work and I’m always left in awe by this extremely talented, kind, supportive business woman!)
@t_del_te- (Liu so very kindly shares so much knowledge on his blog, I always take something new from his posts. I love his content and warm persona.)
@Steapd_tea- (All content by Marco is top tier content. Literally picture perfect and all about tea! He also shares wonderful tea tips and information. It’s always a pleasure to talk to him.)
@Teadaytuesday- (Winnie has been my most recent inspiration honestly. All her drinks and experiments push me to experiment too and all her creations deserve a café of their own. She puts so much time and effort into her recipes. It’s wonderful to see!)
Really, there are so many more, but I’ll let you explore yourself!

Vedika Badlani Saneja
Founder of Chai Musafir
@chaimusafir (New Delhi)

Vedika Badlani Saneja is the founder of Chai Musafir. “My journey into the world of tea began as a tea blogger. I was fortunate to make great connections and friendships during this time and of course, I entered the vast world of tea. You can trust that through Chai Musafir, I will bring the best and finest of teas to you. As a fellow tea enthusiast, I understand what you’re looking for and I’m working day and night to fulfill your needs and expectations. Also, the covid pandemic has stirred an atmosphere of stress and anxiety and we all need to address it. Mental well-being should be our top priority and hence, Chai Musafir’s self care boxes are here to help you with the same.”

What is your understanding of tea? How does that differ from chai?

Any type of tea comes from a single plant called Camellia sinensis which has two varieties, Camellia sinensis sinensis & Camellia sinensis assamica. And thousands of different types of teas are available as a result of different cultivars that have been developed over the years. This is what’s exciting about tea. There is so much out there to explore and experience.
Tea for me is a culture in itself. Chai is nothing but a subset of tea I would say. Chai is a recipe that’s made from tea. Tea is an emotion, a means to learn about a society, its customs, habits, traditions,way of life, lifestyle, values and so on.
In India for example, we say “Atithi Devo Bhava” which means ‘Guest is equivalent to God.’ So every guest in Indian homes is welcomed with utmost respect and in most homes, the guests are served with a cup of chai, which is nothing but milk tea.
Hence, I feel tea is one of the simplest ways to understand any culture around the world.

What inspired you to create your tea blog?

I started this blog because I wanted to blog about something that I was interested in and that not many people spoke about, but little did I know that tea was going to be a turning point in my life. When it comes to blogging, tea as a topic is not as popular as travel or makeup or fashion. I did cover travel, makeup, and even music for a bit, but honestly, the kind of satisfaction and excitement that I got from tea, I didn’t get anywhere else.
I can sip a cup of tea, experience its multiple benefits and talk/blog about it at the same time, without worrying about anything at all. It’s simple and fulfilling. There’s no worry of spending too much, like in travel or exposing my skin to harsh chemicals like in makeup! Moreover, different types of teas have different health benefits which is all the more rewarding.
The tea community is warm and supportive and open to new experiences. That’s what I love about tea.

What do you aspire to achieve through your tea blog?

I want to be able to inspire people to try out new teas and move out of their comfort zones to experience what the world of tea has to offer. Many people drink tea as a morning wake up beverage or just to give company to colleagues at work or maybe out of habit or addiction. But I want people to get excited about tea. I want them to understand the history and the wonderful stories that relate to tea. That’s why I share recipes, facts, and reviews of the different types of tea and the various tea brands that I explore frequently. I’ve also started curating tea gift boxes recently under my brand name, Chai Musafir. My gift boxes include various types of teas from different brands, all based on my experience. This gift box has in fact received a lot of love and appreciation and also helped many people discover new varieties of teas.

What connections have you made since creating your tea blog?

When I started my blog, some amazing tea brands contacted me to try out their teas and share my feedback. In this process, I made some great connections in the tea industry, some of whom have helped me immensely in improving my knowledge of tea, and also guided me in several ways when I started my own brand, for which I’m truly grateful.
One of the greatest moments of my blogging journey was when I got the opportunity to interview Henrietta Lovell from Rare Tea Company, who’s also known as the rare tea lady. She’s the sweetest and I had such a wonderful time talking to her.
She supports organic farming, buying directly from the farmers, and also runs a charity wing that takes care of the farmers’ families, which is amazing.

Who are some of your favorite tea bloggers?

This one’s a difficult question because each blogger is unique and they share different perspectives on tea. Some share their tea journey from a spiritual perspective, some try out new flavours just for fun, and some share informational blogs on tea education. Honestly, I like connecting with them all. So I won’t pick any favourite as of now. But I would congratulate everyone for the amazing work they’ve been doing.

Do you have a favorite Indian tea blogger who is not included? Tag them below and tell us why!

Photo “Darjeeling” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “​​M_Bartleby” and is being posted unaltered (source)