|Darjeeling tea-women cleaning tea,1866, India.happyteaearth.com|
In ancient India the consumption of tea was very much there as mentioned in the Ramayana, and clear records point out use of tea in the first century AD by the Buddhists monks. For more than thousand years tea - mainly indigenous to eastern and northern regions of India - was cultivated and consumed by tribes They mainly drank black decoction without adding milk. The Singpho and the Khamti tribes of Assam, where the Camellia Sinensis plant (native to India) grew, have been consuming tea since the 12th century. The British on their trips through the hilly place saw the local tribes drinking a sort of black drink which was a type of tea brewed from local plants and since it tasted like tea they took keen interest to develop it. Large scale cultivation and commercial production began only with the arrival of British company.
Large-scale production of tea - a tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singpho people began in Assam, India in the early 1820s. In 1826, the British East India Company signed a treaty (Yandaboo treaty) with the Ahom kings and took over the region mainly to develop tea plantations after studying the suitability of climate, altitude, nature of soil, transportation facilities, etc. Having found that starting tea company was viable, the British established the ''first English tea garden'' at Chabua in 1837 in Upper Assam and in 1840 began the commercial production of tea in this region. The indigenous tea - Camellia Sinensis was not taken up for production in the early days and the early tea cultivation began with 42,000 seedlings germinated from a consignment of 80,000 seeds procured from China – 2000 were planted in the hill districts of South India, and 20,000 each in the hill districts in Kumaon in the foot hills of the Himalayas in North India.
|Assam-tea processing-from seed to final drying 1850s, India.en wikipedia.org|
|Lukwah Assam tea plantation,India. www. www.teabox.com|
To day India is listed as the world's leading producer of tea - 715,000 tons; the teas of Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous. Nearly two thirds of India's total production is consumed locally based on per capita consumption of half a cup a day. No doubt the British followed several methods and accelerated the growth towards the end of 1900s.
|East India co.label. clairepetra.co|
In southern India there are numerous tea estates in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Some of the tea plantations near Munnar in Iddukki district of Kerala are at higher altitude and the highest one is at Kolukkumalai (elevation 8,000 feet) in the western ghat. ''The Nilgris Tea'' produced in the Nilagiri district of Tamil Nadu is quite famous and there are many tea plantations near the famous hill station Ooty. Stanes and his British family were pioneers in the development of tea plantations on the Nilagiri hills in the 1800s. Tea estates were operated mainly by the British Sahibs (durai(s) in local parlance) during the colonial period.