Tea Cultivation in India
The introduction of tea cultivation in India was initiated through seeds obtained from China although the tea plant is found wild in India. The native Indian population seems to have known tea from time immemorial. They knew of it as a vegetable food, but later made infusions of it, a kind of soup, like the butter-tea of Tibet.
It was not until 1780 that the Europeans made efforts to cultivate tea plant in British India, but only as an ornamental plant. A few Chinese plants were brought from Canton to Calcutta (now Kolkata) by the East India Company in 1793. Some of these were sent by the then Governor-General, Warren Hastings to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kyd, who planted these in his private botanical garden at Sibpur, near Calcutta.
Tea plantation on a large scale was introduced in 1788 by Sir Joseph Banks. He was an English naturalist. He recommended Bihar, Rangpur in Assam and Cooch-Bihar as the localities in which tea cultivation was most likely to be successful.
Chinese bushes, when planted in Assam took time to mature, so the industry got under-way with tea prepared from leaf plucked from indigenous bushes. The first tea good enough to be sent to Calcutta was made in 1836, although during this year and the next, only small samples were produced. In 1838, enough tea was made for dispatch to England where it was awaited with great interest for its novelty.
A company termed Bengal Tea Company was formed in Calcutta in 1839 and in the same year a joint-stock company was also formed in London with similar object, i.e. to purchase the East India Company’s plantations and establishments in Assam for the purpose of carrying on the cultivation there. The two companies almost immediately amalgamated as the Assam Company.
The tea-plantations also began in Darjeeling (West Bengal).
By the end of 1856, tea had been planted in many areas in and around Darjeeling. The industry had it’s beginning in south India in 1834; seeds obtained from China were sent to the Nilgiris, but it was not until 1853 that the production of tea was taken up commercially.
Until around 1880, investments on plantation crops in the south India were mainly in coffee, and tea was a subsidiary crop, but in the wake of leaf-rust disease which caused devastation to the coffee industry, there was a marked swing to tea investments, as reflected by the progressive increase in the planted acreage.
In 1893, the United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI) was formed and this body coordinated the activities of planting concerns dealing not only with tea, but with other crops as well.
Between 1927 and 1932, the area under tea in south India increased from 34,000 to 48,000 hectares and in 1978 it reached 74,000 hectares.
Presently, India is one of the largest tea producing country in the world. The major tea producing states are Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, etc.
India is the country with largest number people who drinks tea. It is the most favorite refreshing drink for the Indians. There is huge surge in domestic demand for green tea.