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The tea bush originated in the area where India, China and Myanmar meet, in the hot wet mountainous regions of the Eastern Himalayas. It was originally eaten and drunk by tribal groups in this area. Over two thousand years ago it was used as a medicine and aid to concentration in China, being helped by the expansion of Buddhism from India.
There exists a 10th century CE Sanskrit medical text from Assam called Nidana that mentions leaves called shamapatra from which shamapani is made. Historians are conflicted as to whether this is the first mention of tea in India.
Before the commercialization of tea began in Assam, the leaves of the tea plant were chewed by the local villagers (Singphos) with little or no processing. This continues in certain inaccessible regions of southeastern Assam, as well as in neighbouring regions of Myanmar. Today tea plants are found to be in abundance growing wildly in the hills of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, some of them are of 100 years old. Bodos (pronounced BO-ROs) were the earliest settlers of Assam. It is likely that Bodos may have brought tea and rice to Assam.