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History of Indian Tea

Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Nilgiris
are the name of the major regions in India where tea plantation thrives & teas are named after the region they come from.
We trace the history in brief of the development of the plantation crop in the regions and pay a tribute to the pioneering effort of individuals and communities.

Assam Tea LogoCultivation of tea in India, popularly known as Chai  started in 1833, where the industry arose primarily to produce &  trade tea for the British East India Company.

In 1776, Sir Joseph Banks, renowned English Botanist,  recommended  to undertake the cultivation of tea in India. In 1780, Robert Kyd experimented with tea cultivation in India with seeds, the consignment of which was stated to have arrived from China but not with success.

In 1823. Robert Bruce, a Scottish , visited Rangpur, in Upper Assam. He  met  the chief of the Singhpo tribe of the  north-east, in connection with a variety of tea they grew unknown to  the world. but unfortunately  his death in 1824 cut short the progress.
A decade later, his younger brother, Charles Alexander Bruce took the initiative and with great difficulty was able to get the first approval of acceptable good quality  from the viceroy, Lord Auckland in 1836.

In 1837, Bruce dispatched  the first consignment of  of tea. This historic consignment was auctioned in London on 10 January 1839 and generated great excitement.

In 1839 Bengal Tea Company was formed in Calcutta, and a joint stock company was formed in London to purchase the East India Company's plantations and establish tea estates in Assam. The two companies merged to form Assam Company.

In May 1855, indigenous tea bushes were first discovered in Cachar district of Assam.

In 1859 tea cultivation spread to Tripura, Sylhet, and Chittagong, Jorehaut Tea Company followed in the footsteps of Assam Company and was incorporated on 29 June 1859.

By 1859 there were nearly 50 tea gardens in Assam. By 1862 there were 160 gardens.

During this period plantations  in Kumaon, Kangra, Kullu and Garhwal on an experimental basis also made a beginning. In 1881, the Indian Tea Association was founded to represent north Indian planters.

DArjeeling Tea LogoIn 1841 Chinese tea seeds were brought by  Dr A. Campbell  and planted them in his garden in Darjeeling town
In 1852 Commercial cultivation began.
By 1874, there were 113 tea gardens in Darjeeling district alone.


In 1862  inspired planters tried  out tea cultivation in the Terai region. James white set up the first Terai plantation called Champta. Planting was then extended to the Dooars. Gazeldubi was the first Dooars garden, and by 1876 the area boasted 13 plantations. 1877  the British to set up the Dooars Tea Planters' Association.

Nilgiri Tea LogoNILGIRIS :
In 1854 Mann was the first planter to manufacture Nilgiri teas. He started a tea plantation  Coonoor Tea Estate. Around this time, another planter, Rae, set up Dunsandle Estate near.

In 1859, other planters in the Nilgiris began to follow suit In 1882. James Finlay & Co. was the first to attempt tea cultivation in the high ranges of tea.

Especially Munnar,  now home to the highest teas grown in the world. The specific geographical conditions and the height of the plantations make the tea unique. In 1893 the United Planters' Association of Southern India was set up to represent those in the south.

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The history of tea in India is a glorious record of continuous development of one of our foremost industries and a valuable national asset.

Sanjiva Reddy former president of india 1977-82

The Pioneers

Maniram Dewan, the prime minister of the last Ahom king, Purandhar Singha, was the first Indian to grow tea on a commercial basis in Assam. He was followed by Rosheswar Barua, who established six tea estates. Many other Indian planters followed.

From Far away Rajasthan, came the Marwaris who found fortunes in tea cultivation. In 1819, Navrangrai, the father of Harbilash Agrawal, migrated from Churu and settled in Tezpur. A few years later he was joined by a stream of traders. They braved immense hardship, but battled on and built their businesses from scratch from Tezpur.

The Marwaris travelled across rough terrain, often on foot. There were no transport facilities and a popular fable in Hindi (Indias national language) to highlight the entrepreneurship Zeal & perseverance  was Jahan na pahunche belgadi, vahan pahunche Marwari (the Marwari can even reach a place which is inaccessible to a bullock cart). Many  Marwaris succumbed to illness and lack of medical care. They had to rely on their own intelligence and skill to develop plantations, clearing the jungles and identifying the soil best suited to tea. So expert did they become that very soon European and other Indian planters began to seek their advice, Later buying out British plantations. Their role in the development of Assam was quite significant and unparalleled.

Tea estates were owned by privately held British companies as late as 1980, and are now owned by large Indian tea houses or by private owners.

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