History of Tea in India
Table of Contents
About Tea in India
Several people believe that tea was brought to India through the Silk caravans that traveled from China to Europe thousands of years ago. Furthermore, Camellia sinensis is a native to India and grew into the wilds even before it was recognized.
The native Indians used the leaves as a part of their diet sometimes, though most likely it was utilized for the medicated purpose only. Long before it was transformed into the current famous Chai, a flavorful black tea sweetened with milk or sugar besides spices, including ginger and cardamom, was used in vegetable dishes or soup.
Who discovered tea in India?
An essential part of our daily life currently, formally tea was introduced to Indians by the British. India owes the origin of tea to the British who intended to overthrow China’s dominance on tea, having found that Indian soil was capable of cultivating the tea plants.
The local plants that proved to be a piece of evidence were a great indication that the land was perfect for transplanting Chinese seedlings. Earlier sites for tea planting were chosen, including Assam valley and the looming mountains of Darjeeling.
Over 14 years of unsuccessful attempts, tea production in India began to bloom, enabling the creation of a tea that was equal if not beyond its Chinese counterparts. Thanks to the Chinese counterparts, India remains and also became the largest producer of tea in the globe, second only to China.
The native Tea spices:
While we explore the history of tea in India, one of the world’s largest tea producers in the world, under British rule, the commercial tea plantations were established when a native variety of Camilla Sinensis plant was discovered in Assam by Scotsman Bruce in 1823.
Furthermore, the story continues as that a local merchant, Maniram Dewan, introduced Bruce to the local Singhpo people who used to drink a beverage similar to tea. Singhpo plucked the tender leaves of the wild plant, and they dried the leaves under the sun.
The leaves were also exposed to the night dew for at least three days, after which they were placed inside the hollow of a bamboo tube and smoked till flavors developers. Bruce sampled the leaf decoction, and he found that it has resembled the tea from China.
Bruce also collected samples of the sample plant. Still, it was only after he passed away in 1830 that Charles pursued interest and sent the collected samples for testing to Calcutta.
Though it was found to be tea, it wasn’t similar to that of Chinese plants, and later it was named Assamica.
It is essential to note that several efforts were made by the East India company to break the monopoly chain of china over the global tea trade during the time of these developments that took place due to the accelerating conflict of interests.
One of the company’s most crucial initiatives, instead of this situation was to start producing tea within the British colonies, including India.
For the same initially, the Chinese seeds were smuggled into the provinces, including Sri Lanka and India, and then these seeds were tested for its commercial viability. Therefore these Chinese plants weren’t suitable to Assamese Terroirs.
Hence the Assamese variant was welcomed after several trials and extended periods of dedicated efforts; the British led commercial tea plantation in 1837 in Chabua in upper Assam.
Around 1840, the tea industry in India started to take shape. The first plants that were tried out in Assam included Chinary tea plants, and they were tested later in high elevations of Darjeeling and Kangra, and it was here they grew more healthy and better.
In 1841 officially tea planting in Darjeeling began when the first superintendent, Archibald Cambell, experiment by planting few chinary seeds in his locality.
In 1847 many others started studying in the same way, and an official plant nursery was established in Darjeeling. In 1850 soon after, the first commercial plantation was established in Darjeeling with the setting up of Tuvkar tea estate.
The tea industry in India today:
The tea industry hasn’t seized even after the British left the country. Currently, there are at least 43,293 plantations in Assam, and they are ever-growing. To ensure the supply of genuine Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri tea, a compulsory system of certifying these teas was incorporated into the tea act of 1953.
Under the Geographical indications of Goods Act of 1999, Darjeeling, Darjeeling Logo, and Nilgiri Logo are registered.
In several ways, tea drinking has involved with almost all regions of this vast country, making their chai variants. There are numerous humble chaiwallahs making hundreds of steaming cups that connect the various strata of the society and, on one hand of the spectrum, are the gourmet stores that sell and serve excellent Indian tea.