Perhaps, the wildest teas in the world.
Far into the unexplored forests of Manipur, there grow tea trees, not bushes, but trees. Unknown to most, these trees have found their roots in the jungles and have been growing wild and free for more than a century.
The very same Camellia Sinensis, that grows diminutively in acres of short tea bushes, if given the chance, grows into graceful tall trees and grows leaves that are bigger, richer and so much more complex that the garden variety.
Did you know that tea gardens maintain bushes purely for convenience? There isn’t another reason other than ease of plucking! Whereas the Wild Teas that feature on our lists grows wild in the forest, naturally born and cultivated by the environment and nothing else.
These untrimmed, ungroomed tea trees can grow to more than 20 feet tall and the trunks are incredibly thick. Which means harvesting these teas is all the more a labour of love, with the terrain, the access and the plucking, all an intensive process executable only by the skilled few.
The Wild Teas, besides being richer and more complex in flavour, also offer a host of benefits to the ones who wander off the expected path and try something that is pathbreaking.
The very fact that these trees have grown naturally in the forest ensures that their health benefits are unadulterated and 100% natural. Added to this is the fact that the older and bigger the tree, the deeper the root network and the richer the nutrient profile of the plant. A profile that is palpable in the complexity of the taste of these teas.
The Wild Teas of India grow in very few and far between places in the world, including small areas in China, a country known for its tea production and consumption. In India it grows specifically in the North Eastern part of the country and while these teas are in high demand, there is a very limited quantity that these trees can yield every year. Southern Manipuri districts of Churachandpur and Pherzor and small clusters in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram grow the entirety of Wild Teas in India.
Even though there are many legends to explain the coming of the phenomenon of teas growing in the wild, the fact remains that Tea Trees have been a part of our culture and tradition for so long, it is time we consume it in the way the tree is meant to grow and offer its flavours.