While Darjeeling and Assam are probably the best-known tea growing regions in India, Kangra, in mountainous Himachal Pradesh, is historically better known for its eponymous style of painting than for its tea.
Kangra paintings often depict scenes that highlight the lush greenery of the Kangra valley and surrounding hills.
Fittingly, in McLeodganj I stayed at the Green Hotel, which had a restaurant with views looking out over the Dhauladhar mountain range in the outer Himalayas. “Kangra Tea” was listed on the menu so I ordered some. It turned out to be a broken-leaf green tea. It was not bad, but I found it a bit more astringent than some of the better green teas I have tried, and otherwise unremarkable.
Next, in a cafe near the main square, I ordered another “Kangra Tea” and wondered whether it would be similar to the first one. The waiter brought me a tea bag which, when infused, yielded a golden-yellow liquor. Interestingly, the tea had a slightly smoky, earthy taste, reminiscent of some of the Sheng Puerhs I had enjoyed in the past. Although this tea bag did not contain tea leaves (it was filled with tea dust and/or fannings), the infusion tasted surprisingly good.
Finally, at the Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory I picked up some of their highest grade whole leaf tea, named “Green Gold,” despite being a black tea. The leaves were a greenish brown, with stems mixed in. The liquor was amber-colored and had a vegetal, slightly woody aroma. On the first infusion, it had a mildly sweet, vegetal taste reminiscent of some green teas; on the second infusion it seemed a bit like some of the lighter Nepalese black teas I have tried.
I let the second infusion steep for several minutes, but there was still no bitterness or astringency. This is a light black tea, much more similar to a second flush Darjeeling than, say, an Assam tea, so it is best without milk and sugar. While certainly no match for a Darjeeling, this tea was still enjoyable — and since I have a whole box of it, I plan to drink more!