The people of Meghalaya love drinking tea. Even before the British introduced the tea leaves, tea has been part of the culture for generations. Perhaps the climate here is such that people love to drink a hot beverage at least twice a day!
Tea has become a way people connect and show hospitality to each other. When you visit any Khasi home, you will be sure to be offered 'sha saw' or red tea (made of black tea leaves) and 'kwai' or betel nuts and betel leaves. It is our way of welcoming and showing love to our guests.
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In Jaintia Hills, there is an all women Self-Help Group (SHG). This SHG and the erstwhile Meghalaya Rural Development Society—LIFCOM, discovered two indigenous teas used by the ancient Khasis.
The two teas include Sha Shiahkrot (Sha is tea and Shiahkrot is a local plant) and Cha Khoo (Cha is tea and Khoo is rice in the Jaintia dialect).
Shiahkrot tea is made from a root called Smilax (its scientific name), known traditionally to have medicinal properties. Shiah krot has a mildly sweet flavour.
Cha Khoo, which was the only hot drink available before tea was introduced by the British, is made only from roasted rice. It tastes both like tea and coffee.
This Society has relaunched these two teas in the local shops. They have now been made popular among tourist.
Apart from these two traditional beverages that were popular in the past, the people of Meghalaya have also started growing tea leaves on a large scale. This has transformed the lives of many people so far.
Mawlyngot village is one such village that has inspired many because of its story of overcoming hardships. The village was once known for alcoholism and drunk fights. Growing tea leaves has uplifted the people of this village. They went from mediocre to excellence. Now this village produces one of Asia's best urlong tea.
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Roselle tea or 'Sha Jajew' (as called in the khasi language) is also one of the traditional teas of the people of Meghalaya.
In Shillong, there is a well-known café by the name You and I Arts café where they serve traditional food such as 'Phan saw bad tungtap' or red potatoes and dry fish chutney, 'doh thad sniang' or smoked pork and many more.
They also serve a ruby red refreshing Roselle or 'jajew' tea. This tea is a welcome drink at the café, and everyone gets this complimentary drink, every time they visit the café. It has a sour and fruity taste; you wouldn't have known it was made from a flower.
Being at the heart of the city of Shillong, Zizira also wants to introduce these exotic, traditional teas to people of the rest of India. This is why we came up with a tea that contains herbs the people in Meghalaya have enjoyed for generations.
We named it Earthy Tropical Green Tea there is a reason behind it.
The two main ingredients that make up this tea includes Lakadong Turmeric (shynrai) and Roselle (jajew).
The name Earthy Tropical stands for the flavor this tea provides to its drinkers.
It is earthy because of the Lakadong turmeric, the golden root that has been dug up from the grounds of Lakadong village.
Roselle although a flower, has a flavor similar to tropical fruits- a combination of fruity and sour taste.
We've crushed Lakadong turmeric slices and roselle calyces, and we added ginger and organic green tea to the mix. Together they make a flavorful cup of goodness.
Before I come to the recipes, let me tell you more about the ingredients.
Roselle (Hibiscus) - Did you know that Roselle is neither a fruit nor a flower? In fact, they are called calyces.
For our Earthy Tropical tea, we used the Calyx, the red fleshy covering enclosing the flowers seed pod. Its taste is a perfect combination of sweet and fruity sourness.
The locals used Roselle or 'jajew' to make delicious pickles out of it. Apart from cooking, they also used the flowers as a mordant for making natural dyes!
The harvesting season for Roselle is during the months of November and December.
Lakadong Turmeric - Lakadong turmeric is a high altitude, special variety of turmeric known for its high medicinal benefits. It grows in the village of Lakadong, in Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya.
Lakadong turmeric rhizome is harvested from the ground from December – April.
Ginger - Ginger is renowned for its taste elevating properties and is almost a 'must have' spice in Asian cooking.
Its use is so common that at times one tends to forget that ginger has many medicinal properties too.
The season for harvesting ginger is between February and April.
Green Tea - Green tea is the unfermented or less oxidised tea in comparison to black tea and contains high polyphenols which is a class of antioxidants. Apart from polyphenols, green tea consists of catechin (a natural antioxidant) called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which accounts for the health benefits associated with green tea.
People are more and more creative with how they use their teas, which has gone beyond consuming it.
These are two ways you can enjoy Earthy Tropical Green Tea:
Now that I've told you about Meghalaya traditional teas and our special Roselle tea, would you care to try Meghalaya's Traditional Teas?
Drop in your comments below.