Thursday, March 16, 2023

Early history of tea in India

In 1598, a Dutch traveler, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book about his adventures that the Indians ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic and oil and boiled the leaves to make a brew.

The story of tea in India started two centuries ago when the East India Company started searching for an alternative source of supply to Chinese tea. The monopoly trade of East India Company between China and Britain was dissolved. At that point of time, the British realized an urgent need for tea cultivation. In 1788, the British botanist, Joseph Banks, reported to the British East India Company that the climate in certain British-controlled parts of north east India was ideal for tea growing.

Commercial tea plantations were first established under the British Rule when a native variety of Camellia sinensis plant was discovered by Scotsman Robert Bruce in 1823 in Assam. Here, a wild species of tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singpho tribe was found and brought under cultivation. This variety was closely related to the Chinese tea plant, camellia sinensis assamica, which had been imported by the English.

In 1826, the British East India Company took over the region from the Ahom kings through the Yandaboo Treaty. At the end of 1834 the tea committee reported to the Government about the wild indigenous tea plant in Assam and about its possible success. By this time, after a prolong search and experimentation, it was certain that tea could grow in India.

In 1835, tea cultivation was started in Assam by the East India Company. In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam; in 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region, run by indentured servitude of the local inhabitants.

Beginning in the1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations.

In 1856, tea plantation was started in Darjeeling, India. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world
Early history of tea in India

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