Not only does India produce the most tea in the world, it grows some of the very best. Nearly every part of the country has a tea-growing region. Approximately 4% of the national income of India comes from its tea, there are over 14,000 tea estates.
The geography of India allows for many different climatic conditions, and the resulting teas can be dramatically different from each other.
There are 3 main kinds of tea produced in India:
Assam tea comes from the North Eastern section of the country. This heavily forested region is home to much wildlife, including the rhinoceros. Tea from here is rich and full-bodied. It was in Assam that the first tea estate was established, in 1837.
The Darjeeling region is cool and wet and tucked in the foothills of the Himalayans. The tea is exquisite and delicately flavored and considered to be one of the finest teas in the world. The Darjeeling plantations have 3 distinct harvests, and the tea produced from each 'flush' has a unique flavor. First flush teas are light and aromatic, while the second flush produces tea with a bit more bite. The third, or autumn flush gives a tea that is lesser in quality.
This tea comes from an even higher part of India than Darjeeling. This southern Indian region has elevations between 1,000 and 2,5000 meters. The flavors of Nilgiri teas are subtle and rather gentle.
They are frequently blended with other, more robust teas.
Besides the different kinds of tea that come from India, there is also a unique style of making tea. It's called chai. There are lots of various recipes to make chai, but the basic ingredients are black tea, milk, sugar, and spices. It's the combination of spices that make chai so wonderful.
The most common are cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and even pepper. Even major coffee and tea chains are starting to serve chai in North America. If you're tired of plain tea, give chai a try.
If you were to visit India, there would be no end to the sights you could see. Of course, I'm sure you'd take a tour of a tea plantation or two.