In this article we will discuss about Tea Production in India:- 1. Origin of Tea 2. Cultivation of Tea.
Origin of Tea:
The origin of wild tea plant Camellia sinensis is traced from Assam, India and China. The origin of tea as a medicinal herb useful for staying awake was very old. Cultivation of the tea plant is 2000 or more years back is Asia.
Some people think that it is China where the tea was originated. The tea drinking history is as far back as 1000 BC or earlier. The use of tea as a beverage drunk at social occasions is far back from Tang Dynasty (618-907 BC).
By early 1700 the British East India Company established itself as the dominant trading power to monopolize tea trade with China. Trading stations were present is India, including hubs in Bombay, Bengal and Madras.
Chinese Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea in 2737 BC while boiling water in the shade of a tree. A light breeze caused some leaves to fall into water, which the emperor tasted and found it to be delicious. Experiments revealed its natural healthy properties and benefits.
Tea has travelled an incredible journey through the centuries from China to North America, with new variations, flavours, uses etc.
In 1773 the ‘Tea act’ was passed allowing the East India Company to ship some of its surplus stock to America. More than 1, 00,000 pound of surplus tea we as shipped across the Atlantic. In New York or Philadelphia the ships were turned away.
In Boston the ships sat in the harbour while the unrest continued to grow. On 16th December a group of men disguised as natives boarded the ships is the Boston harbour, split open the tea chests and hurled the tea into the harbour.
The British closed the port and sent in troops to occupy the city and the American war of Independence began.
Cultivation of Tea:
Tea was introduced into India by British in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. They used the Chinese seeds, Chinese planting and cultivating techniques and launched tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate tea for export.
In early 1820s the British East India Company began large scale production of tea in Assam. This tea was a traditionally brewed tea variety by singpho tribe. In 1826 the British East India Company took over the region from Ahom kings through Yandaboo Treaty. In 1837 the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam.
In 1840 the Assam Tea Company started commercial production of tea. Thus tea industry started flourishing since 1850 by the end of the century Assam became the loading tea producing region.
Today India is listed as the world’s leading producer of tea. 7, 15,000 tones per year as compared to China’s 540,000 tones. The Tea of Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Darjeeling are world famous. More than 70 percent of tea production is consumed locally.
India was top producer of tea for more than a century but now the position is taken over by China. Indian tea companies have acquired a number of iconic foreign tea enterprises including British brands Tetley and Typhoo. Recently the consumption of Green tea has increased in India.
The market is growing over 50 percent y-o-y; and is expected to reach a size of INR 6000 crore from its current size in year 2013 of approximately INR 1500 crore The major tea producing states of India are Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Karnataka, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalay, Bihar, Orissa and Uttarakhand.
In 2013 Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry chose five countries which account for 42 percent of the total tea exported from India i.e. US, Russia, Kazakistan, Egypt and Iran for intensive promotional intervention through five specific activities over five years.
Demand for a Separate Time Zone:
Tea gardens in Assam do not follow the Indian Standard Time (1ST). Which is the time observed throughout India and Sri Lanka? The local time is Assam’s tea gardens, known as “Tea Garden Time” or Bagantime, is an hour ahead of the 1ST. The system was introduced during British days keeping in mind the early sunrise in this part of the country.
It was successful in increasing the productivity of tea garden workers as they save on daylight by finishing the work during daytime. Working time for tea labourers in the gardens is generally’ 9 AM (1ST 8 AM) to 5 PM (1ST 4 PM) it may vary slightly from garden to garden. Noted Film Producer Jahnu-Barua has been campaigning for a separate time zone for the north east region.