|Nilgiris tea plantation. S. India tourmyindia.com/|
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|Nilgiri hills tea plantation, S. India.|
|Tea in the royal house,UK rct.uk/collection/themes/trails/tea-in-|
Tea first appeared in Britain in the 1650s, when it was served as a novelty in the coffee houses of London. The drink became fashionable after the marriage of Charles II (1630–1685) to Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705) in 1662. The king's new wife introduced the royal court to the tea-drinking habits of her native Portugal. In response to the new demand, the East India Company began to import tea into Britain, placing its first order in 1664. ........................
|Thomas Heming, Tea kettle, 1761-rct.uk/collection/themes/trails/tea-in|
“I must drink lots of tea or I cannot work. Tea unleashes the potential which slumbers in the depth of my soul.” -Leo Tolstoy
The discovery of Nilgiris hills and places that have similar British weather condition was a blessing in disguise. The Collector of Coimbatore district John Sullivan was the first British official to stand atop the hills. Earlier, this place was visited by European missionaries. An Italian preacher, one Giacomo Finicio visited this place in 1603. He mentioned about mountains and cold weather conditions at higher reaches. Once this place was under the control of Mysore Maharajah and later under Tipu Sultan. After his defeat in 1799 at Srirangapatna, the English company - EIC took control over Nilgiris. In 1819, John Sullivan and his paraphernalia, climbed the hills and reached Kotagiri. Enchanted by the cool and congenial weather and the quiet surroundings, later he had a house built and settled there. Besides, he had close contact with the various tribes living there.The discovery of suitable and cool places on the hills reached far and wide after a long gap of about 7 or 8 years more and more British moved uphill to settle down there. Subsequently, the British had the rights to buy lands here and not Indians.
As far as Nilgiris hills are concerned, the credit of introducing tea plants goes to (according to Francis, ICS' records) one Dr. Christie, an Assistant Surgeon from Madras. In 1833, Dr. Christie, while on special duty in the Nilgiris, conducting meteorological and geological work near Coonoor, accidentally noticed camellia shrubs which were similar to those tea plants growing in Assam and other places. Having found out the tea plants native to this place, near Coonoor disappeared for unknown reasons replaced by other varieties, he made up his mind to run some experiments with tea plants to be brought from China. But, unfortunately, his unexpected death made other British planters try the tea plant on the hills.
|India tea. suntips.|
Later the land was taken on lease by Le Marquis de Saint- Simon, the Governor General of French colonies in India. The French botanist Georges Guerrard-Samuel Perrottet, who was with Saint-Simon found many tea plants, stunted, a few inches high but alive. This gave him encouragement and he replanted the seedlings and nurtured them with patience. After two years, the plants had grown to almost four feet in height. Further, he found them to be healthy with flowers, seeds and young leaves. His publication of the results in the Asiatic Journal, Calcutta drew the attention many planter's attention. A planter named Henry Mann who had some success in making fairly good tea from the Nilgiri plants, tried his luck in the Coonoor plantation. This one later became Coonoor Tea Estate, the oldest one here. In 1856, a favorable review of Nilgiri tea by the London auction house made him apply for the grant of large land on lease. The govt. rejected his request for unknown reason. During the same period one Rae showed good results from his plantation (height:1828.8 m) near Sholur close to Ooty. This estate known as Dunsandle (height:1828.8 m) is now owned by the Bombay Burmah Trading Company.
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By end of the nineteenth century there were about 3000 acres of land under tea. Soon the the Commissioner of Nilgiris James Wilkinson Breeks at the Ooty Agricultural Show encouraged several tea planters to showcase their tea in London's leading Global center for tea, opium and spice trade. Encouraged by their good evaluation of Nilgiri tea, planters turned to Indian natives to avoid middlemen in London who would take a cut in the profit. But Indians took a long time to drink tea on a regular basis. The number of domestic consumers increased over a period of time, so was the expansion of tea estates to meet additional lands. Nilgiris hills produce about 70000 tons to 120000 tons annually and is the second largest tea producing region in India. An interesting fact is more than 30000 small land owners hold about 10 hectors of tea-producing land and supply tea directly to the factories operating here. Here, the grading is done on the basis of the size of the leaf.
Very aromatic and medium-bodied with a smooth, mellow taste and subtle, natural sweetness, Nilgiri tea is refreshing to drive away fatigue. Loaded with anti-oxidants, it is one of the best iced teas in the world; they never turn bitter. The expensive hand-sorted, full-leaf versions of the tea like the Orange Pekoe (O.P.) are in great demand on the international market. It achieved in Nov. 2006 "Top Honours" and fetched a world record price of $600 per kg at the first ever tea auction held in Las Vegas, USA. A machine-sorted, lower-cost variety of high-quality tea is a semi-full leaf variety known as Broken Orange Peko. Because of high cost, this variety of tea is not available for the natives in India.