Updated: Jul 6, 2021
Translated from Kokborok by Hamari Jamatia
The state of Tripura is home to about 21 species of bamboo. The highly-flexible material is an integral part of the lives of the indigenous population. From using it to build deities for worship, to fashioning it into sturdy huts, Tripuris have mastered bamboo art. Recently, Samir Jamatia, a bamboo expert from the state, has added tea to the list of useful items extracted from the material.
He says that he learnt the art of bamboo leaf tea at a workshop held in China in 2008. To his surprise he found that the brewing of the herbal tea followed a recipe similar to the one that has been prevalent among the Molsom community of Tripura to treat stomach ailments. Samir says he grew up in a village that was predominantly inhabited by members of the Molsom community so he learnt many of their skills and also their language.
The system of traditional medicine in the state is called Bonaji and has served the people for hundreds of years in treating ailments from headaches to broken bones. An important element of this medicinal system is the extraction of plant products to create potions. Samir realized that since Tripura offers many varieties of bamboo and medicinal plants, they can be fused together to brew healthy and nutritious tea. He, therefore, brews bamboo leaf tea with other medicinal plants. He says, "Tripuri people used to cook their food inside bamboo thereby infusing the food with natural goodness. This explains why we have good hair and skin. If we add Bonaji medicinal herbs and leaves to it, the tea made of bamboo becomes very healthy for the consumer."
The bamboo tea made by Samir has been sent to many parts of the world for feedback. He first sent 500 kg of bamboo leaves (approx) through foreign friends. Then as news of the tea spread, he sent them to UK and Germany. He says that there is now a huge demand for the tea and he will start selling it commercially once all formalities are completed.
Samir Jamatia is a well-known expert in Tripura who routinely keeps coming up with innovative ways to make products from bamboo. He has also taught many people how to make bamboo tea. "My dream is to see our indigenous people exploring more avenues for employment and income. Also, we need to safeguard our traditional knowledge systems," he says.
He loves to share the recipe with anyone who wishes to learn about it. He says he believes in sharing knowledge rather than storing and hiding it from others. The recipe is pretty simple: remove the leaves of a bamboo, shred them, wash and dry them in shade, and then store them. At the time of brewing add herbs such as basil, tulsi, guava leaves, and lemon and the drink is ready! Samir says that he is experimenting with other herbs and flavours too.
Jamatia has worked with the National Bamboo Mission and the Bamboo Society of India in the past. He has also received trainings in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan and India.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.