Cape Town - 120402 - Cocktail Corner: Raymond Endean with a cocktail by the name of 'More Tea Vicar?' at Orphanage, on the corner of Bree and Orphan Street. REPORTER: WENDYL MARTIN. PICTURE: CANDICE CHAPLIN.

New Delhi - India is to declare tea as its national drink to celebrate the life of a pioneering tea-planter who was hanged by British colonial rulers for taking part in the rebellion of 1857.

Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Saturday announced the decision while on a visit to Assam, the tea-producing northeastern state that borders on Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Assam was the home state of Maniram Dewan, who is celebrated for introducing commercial tea production to the region and for his role in a plot to throw the British out of Assam during the 1857 mutiny.

The uprising, which is often called the Sepoy Mutiny, started in Meerut, a city close to New Delhi, and spread across northern India before being brutally crushed by British forces with many Indian soldiers and civilians killed.

“The drink would be accorded national drink status by April 17 next year to coincide with the 212th birth anniversary of first Assamese tea-planter and Sepoy Mutiny leader Maniram Dewan,” Ahluwalia said.

He added that tea should also be celebrated as “half of the tea industry labour comprises women and is the largest employer in the organised sector”.

The Asian Age reported that awarding tea the status of national drink may stir up trouble among “naturopaths” who suggest popular Indian beverages such as coconut water, lemon water and yoghurt-based lassi are healthier options.

Tea is generally served in India with milk and plenty of sugar, and often spiced with cardamom.

Coffee, which is grown in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, is becoming rapidly more popular among young urban Indians. - Sapa-AFP