An intense rivalry brewing between India's tea and coffee sectors, as each vied for national drink status, has been simmered by the commerce ministry as it took the decision to not promote one drink over the other.
Tea promoters were left with an especially bad aftertaste as a parliamentary standing committee on commerce had recommended national status for tea. The panel had said the recognition would help the export market for the beverage.
The tea industry, concentrated in Assam and West Bengal, had got minister for development of the northeastern region, Paban Singh Ghatowar, to back its quest for national status.
But, commerce minister Anand Sharma wrote to Ghatowar: "…being competing beverages having respective market shares, declaration of one as a national drink is likely to hurt the interest of the other and raise an avoidable controversy."
Meanwhile, coffee retailers like Bangalore-based Café Coffee Day, have been aggressively promoting the drink across the country with coffee consumption rising at an annual 5% in recent years.
Although tea remains a popular drink, its consumption has risen by a mere 2% annually, as per the commerce ministry.
The North Eastern Tea Association chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty is distraught, "Did people stop eating bananas or oranges because mango was declared the national fruit?" he said, vowing to keep the struggle going.