Tea in India is a household favorite. Many individuals reach out to tea as their caffeine fix, and it kick- starts their day. Been around for centuries, tea has a wonderful history and is an integral part of not only our country but our economy as well. Let us take you through how this beverage became such a significant part of our country.
Tea in India
In India tea was introduced about 5000 years ago as a medicinal drink used in Ayurveda. It contained no Camilla Sinensis and was mainly a mix of herbs and spices which had medicinal properties which today we know as ‘Kadha’. Legend says that tea was brought to the country accidentally by a Buddhist monk who chewed on a few wild leaves to observe a ritual. He felt refreshed after chewing on these leaves and decided to bring them back to India. Though Camilla Sinesis is native to the country and did grow in the wild, its true worth had not been realized. Initially also used in cooking vegetable dishes and sometimes in soup, long before it turned into the strong aromatic beverage that we enjoy today.
How did tea production first begin?
Before we became one of the largest tea producers in the world, the tea plant used to grow in the world indicating that the soil of our country was suitable for tea plantation. The British used this information to their advantage, and as a way to overthrow China’s monopoly on tea introduced transplanting Chinese tea seedlings. The first sites introduced to this process were the looming mountains of Darjeeling and the majestic valleys of Assam. For this to be a success it took over 14 years, and India started producing tea which was on par with the leaves produced in China, if not better. This could be said to be the beginning of the boom in the tea industry in India.
The tea industry in India – How it came to be?
Tea plantations for commercial purposes were first established during British rule when a variety of Camellia sinensis was discovered in the wild by Scotsman Robert Bruce in 1823 in Assam. Stories speak of the Singhpo people who were drinking something similar to tea were introduced to Robert by a local merchant named Maniram Dewan. The Singpho people plucked the tender leaves from a wild plant which they would dry in the sun and then expose the dried leaves to the night dew for three days eventually smoking the leaves in a hollow bamboo to develop the flavors. When Robert sampled this brew he found it to be very similar to the brew from China, and he ended up collecting samples of the plant. However it was only after his demise, his brother Charles took an interest in the samples and sent them to be tested in Calcutta, eventually discovering them to differ from the Chinese variant and were named Assamica.
Simultaneously, the East India company was taking steps to break China’s monopoly of tea, by experimenting to see if Chinese seedlings could be planted on Indian soil. After trying for a few years, it was identified that the seedlings were not suitable, which was when Assamica was welcomed for commercial viability. The British-led, tea plantation in India was finally established in 1837 after various trials and dedicated efforts. It was around early 1840 when the Chinary tea plants, were tested in the elevated regions of Darjeeling, and it was found that the plants grew healthier in this region, which led to the official beginning of tea plantations in Darjeeling in the year 1841. the setting up of the Tukvar Tea estate led to the establishment of `the first commercial plantation in Darjeeling in the year 1850.
Tea Industry In India – Today
The tea market has been growing even after the British rule ended. In India today we have many tea plantations across the country. There are over 43,293 across Assam, 62,213 across the Nilgiris, and around 85 of them in Darjeeling. India is also the 4th largest tea exporter in the world. Owing to strong geographical indications, heavy investment, and continuous innovations, tea from India is considered amongst the finest in the world.