Popular Tea Regions of India - Assam
In the early 1820s, the East India Company began large scale production of teas in Assam of a tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singhpo people.
In 1826, the British East India Company took over the region from the Ahom kings through the Yandaboo Treaty. 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 the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world.
Talking of Assam, the north-eastern state has a long historical connection with teas. The Singphos, believed to be among India’s first tea drinkers, still process tea through the traditional centuries-old method, dhooan chaang. The Singphos believe that a cup of their traditionally brewed tea after every meal aids digestion, and credit it with keeping the community relatively free from cancer and diabetes. Even during the reign of the Ahom kings in Assam, Laal Chaa (a brew made of special wild leaves grown in Assam) was a popular welcome drink in the homes of both royals and commoners.
The British discovered that the assamica variety of tea was much better suited to the region than the Chinese sinensis variety growing at higher elevations and colder climates. Soon, they established tea plantations as an alternative to the expensive Chinese tea they were habituated to consuming. Indian tea production grew significantly under the British who employed native people to work in the fields.
From the very beginning of tea plantations in Assam, the planters have faced great difficulties in securing the necessary labour force. It thus became necessary to bring labourers from other parts of India in large numbers to cope up with the expansion of the tea plantations in Assam. As a result of continuous inflow of immigrant labourers, there are now large numbers of tea garden labourers in the tea producing regions of the State.
Now, Assam Tea has its international reputation and commands a significant share in the world Tea Market. The total area under tea cultivation in Assam is accounting for more than half of the country’s total area under tea. Assam alone produces more than half of India’s tea production. The estimated annual average production of tea in Assam is about 630- 700 million kg.