“Don’t have salt in your tea. You will suffer from hypertension and your life span will reduce. Don’t have sugar in your tea too. It is not good,” said Himanta Biswa Sama, Assam Chief Minister, as he visited the tea gardens of Sonitpur district on Wednesday.
As the health minister, Sarma had earlier said in the Assembly that the practice of consuming salt with tea, initiated during the British era to combat dehydration, continues even today. “This has led to a number of medical complications such as hypertension, heart ailments and eclampsia, adding to high mortality rates among the community,” he had said.
“Won’t be able to say why this tradition was initiated in the tea garden of Assam. However, nowadays, we don’t put salt or sugar in the Chah Pani (black tea). If they want, they carry salt with them,” said Sarabjit Marwah, manager, Khoomtai Tea Estate of Upper Assam.
With more than 800 big tea gardens, Assam produces 56% of the country’s total tea and the garden workers, belonging to the Adivasi community, account for nearly 17% of the state’s population.
Chah pani in the tea gardens of Assam means liquor tea or black tea, while plain water means ‘kacha pani’. This tea is instant and available round-the-clock in the homes of the tea garden workers.
Till date, a bullock cart fitted with a drum containing chah pani moves around the garden. Workers consume it as water or soak the fattened rice (chirwa) and have it as breakfast during the break.
Chah pani, which many in the industry demand to be declared as the national drink, is mostly consumed with salt, similar to ‘nimokh chah’ (salt tea).
Latest studies show a link between a high-salt diet and brain health, and is even considered a cause of hypertension.