Tea Trip Three – Nagaland, The Land Of Warriors!

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I had heard a lot about Nagaland, it’s people, art, culture, the unique varieties of herbs and spices, their food, and Nagas’ intimate connection with mother nature. Nagas are known as fearsome headhunters, fighters and tribals, with many presumptuous stories that people assume are true, because despite being part of India, Nagaland has remained the exotic ‘other’. My journey here opened my eyes and heart to a rich culture and even richer history. This blog post is about my love story, with Nagaland.

Many have heard about Nagaland, but very few have actually travelled to this beautiful place. Nagaland is a part of the ‘Seven Sisters’– that includes Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. Thanks to our friends @DesignStash, we got the opportunity to be part of Nagaland and see it up close. A lovely train journey took us from Guwahati to the extreme east-end of India, to the land of Nagas – where the air and the greenery were simply mesmerizing.

It became very clear that despite being sidelined by the Indian government for decades, the Nagas by nature are full of an industrious spirit. The amount of facilities required for the prosperity of the state is still missing but people have worked their way out on many self-sustainable models. They are great lovers of fun and frolic and here, life is one long festival. The local culture has the deep imprint of Western influence, as seen in their fashion and music. English is the pre-dominant language amongst the locals, many of whom practice Christianity

In my journey, I saw the colorful life and rich culture of the Nagas. They are very skilled in making things with their hands and are known for their textile, handicrafts and cuisines. Till recent years, they were dependent on the forest for their food and shelter, which gives them a deep insight into the natural and organic lifestyle, which I wanted to absorb and explore for my Tea. Our journey, luckily, was not just about the food and spices, but also culminated in us attending three weddings and witnessing India’s first Mixed Martial Arts Tournament – Yoddha Fighting Championship. Most importantly, I discovered the rich history of Tea (my favorite subject!) in the many discussions I had with the locals I interacted with, as I explored the many local markets.

I found that people have been growing wonderful varieties of Tea here for centuries, but only for the local consumption. There is no outside trade. I was told that people from Burma and China usually come here in search of herbs and spices, which are very unique in taste and are exquisite in aroma. Nagaland is still so untouched and far from industrial pollution, and this seems to be the reason why the flora and fauna in this region is still very pure and organic. More of my explorations with Naga tea in my next post. Come back!

To be continued…

TEA Trip One – Rishikesh, The Yoga Capital Of The World!

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The increasing worldwide interest in yoga has made Rishikesh a hot destination for all yoga lovers from around the world. People, who love yoga, also consider tea as a spiritual medium to heal and connect with their inner self. To explore the emerging tea culture in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, ‘Love for Tea’ decided to hit the road and explore the city.

Rishikesh, a nature buff’s paradise, has a serene and calm ambience, that will completely absorb you. With both relaxed and reverent vibes- right on the bank of river ganga, with fresh mountain air, sunrise over the peaks, incessantly ringing temple bells and power packed yoga centers and devotees, the city is a must visit tea destination.

After checking into a beautiful room at Tapovan, on the hilltop, we started our day of adventure. We walked through the forest from our hotel and reached Swiss Garden Restaurant. It’s a beautiful bistro in the middle of forest- with huge variety of great tea, awesome food, calm ambience, trance music and yes, free wifi. This place is a magnet for tea lovers and I highly recommend it.

Some of the teas that I tried here over the next few days are Mint tea, Herbal tea, Ayurvedic tea, Honey ginger lemon and Nepali tea. Nepali chai, as called by the locals, is made with spices without any tea leaves. It’s delicious and a must have. I had to connect with the head chief and learnt the recipe first hand. The recipe for Nepali Chai lands on my blog pretty soon.

We spent our next three days hiking, trekking, visiting numerous temples and exploring tea at local restaurants & cafes. Most of them had interesting menus for all taste. Chilling by the shore of the Ganga and making new friends was our normal activity there.

One of the memorable places during my visit was the Third Eye Restaurant, where we spent an evening after a long day at the beach. Next to the Beatles café, ‘The Third Eye Restaurant’ is another beautiful place with a breath taking view. We spent crazy hours over many rounds of tea hereThe Tibetan Restaurant in Tapovan is another nice place to explore, with awesome variety of tea and multi-cultural cuisines. This place is packed with foreign travellers also because of a German bakery next door and Baba massage center right in front.

The organic and spiritual energy in Rishikesh reflects in the tea here, which besides being completely different in it’s presentation, is mostly made from fresh herbs, that offers a unique tea experience.

Best time to visit Rishikesh is during the winters. Tapovan is a must explore destination for all nature lovers. Thus we continued our Tea quest further towards the east of India, where the tea was already brewing for our arrival.