I’m not a tea person. There, I said it. In fact, I’m not a coffee person too. I’m content with a glass of water every now and then. However, as soon as winters commence, the chill in the air calls for something hot. Naturally, the body demands warmth during this season to bear with the dipping temperatures. Most Indians (if not all) are known to love having a cup of chai in the morning and sometimes evening too. My father is proof. He has a major addiction to tea and always demands a cup of tea after every meal. He likes a milky tea, infused with ginger and elaichi. Once, when I asked him why did he love tea so much, he responded by saying that it provides him a sense of comfort and relief. 

Although it was hard for me to believe as to how a simple beverage could have such a calming effect on the mind and body, it slowly started making sense when I discovered the widespread love for tea across the country. On my visit to Kolkata two years ago, I tasted something called lembu chai. Since the name was so interesting I was up for trying it and it was only later that I found that it was simply lemon tea. Considering it was winters and it was a little cold in the evenings, sipping lembu chai sitting in my hotel room’s balcony became a routine. 

Well, this was just one experience. There are a plethora of teas that are grown and brewed in India. Given the fact that India is the second largest exporter of tea in the world, the tradition of tea drinking can be traced back to the Indian mythological tale of Ramayana where tea drinking was mentioned for the first time some 2000 years ago. With the colonial rule of the East India Company, this practice saw an upsurge with setting up of tea plants in different parts of the country. 

Since tea has been in demand for decades now, it would be unfair to stick to your same boring tea every day. Here are some of the best tea varieties from different corners of the country that are a must-have this winter season. 

1.  Noon Chai 

The pink-coloured chai from Kashmir has won many hearts over the years. Unlike other teas, this is a salty version where tea leaves are brewed with cardamom to give it the pinkish hue. Then milk and salt is added to this Kashmiri beverage which is also known as Sheer Chai. Noon actually refers to salt and the enhanced salty flavour of the tea makes it a winter staple. 

2.  Suleimani Chai 

A famous tea from South India, Suleimani chai is a refreshing and light drink. Made from the freshness of mint leaves and sweetness of palm jaggery, this simple tea is infused with the aroma of cardamom and lemon. Sipping this tea on a cold winter evening can keep your body warm and energized throughout the day. 

3.  Assamese Tea 

One thing that Assam is known for apart from its picturesque landscapes is the large network of tea gardens. The vast production of special tea leaves in the region has given rise to a variety of tea. While black tea is the most widely known Assamese tea that is consumed in other parts of the country too, there is another variety called Ronga Saah. This red-coloured tea is made with a simple preparation of tea leaves and water, without the addition of milk. 

4.  Lembu Chai 

A popular tea in West Bengal, lembu chai is made with the goodness of lemon. This tea is light and doesn’t use milk in its preparation. If you know of the fancy lemon tea available elsewhere, just think of this as a desi version. You can add honey to it for sweetness. This tea works wonders for cough, cold or congestion. 

5.  Darjeeling Tea 

As the name suggests, this tea hails from the foothills of Darjeeling. While the thin-bodied tea is usually consumed as black tea, there are other variants like green, white, oolong etc. The floral flavours of the tea have made it so popular in the Indian sub-continent that it is often referred to as the Champagne of Teas. 

6.  Kahwa 

Another extremely well-known tea from the hilly terrains of Jammu and Kashmir, kahwa is something that you cannot miss when in the state. The green tea gets its spicy flavours, all thanks to the infusion of cardamom and cinnamon with the aroma of saffron. Not just in India, the fan fare of kahwa is spread to Central Asia including Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

7.  Irani Chai 

Ever dreamt of a creamy and milky tea? This Irani chai will be like a dream come true for you. While the tea is flavoured with cinnamon and green cardamom, the condensed milk or khoya enhance the taste of the Irani chai. Paired with Osmania biscuits, this tea is a popular beverage in the city of Hyderabad. 

8.  Butter Tea 

Also known as gur gur tea, this is a specialty of the Ladakh region. The rich and creamy flavours of the tea, which is made from yak butter, salt and tea leaves, have been spread to other Himalayan regions like Sikkim too. The ingredients of the chai are considered to keep the body warm at high temperatures.