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Tea regions of India.

The history of tea in India dates back over a century and a half. India's tea bushes were first discovered in Assam in 1823 by Major Robert Bruce. Eleven years later, in 1834, tea seeds were brought in from China by Major Robert Bruce's brother, Charles Bruce. Bruce employed the services of trained workmen from China with the help of the British Government.

Thereafter in 1839, the first of Assam tea was shipped to London to be sold through London auctions. Soon after this, the country's first tea plantation company, the Assam Tea Co., was set up, marking the beginning of one of the most important industries in India.

Tea fever soon spread to the foothills of the Himalayas, Darjeeling, and southward to the Nilgiris. By 1860, at least 50 private companies had established tea colonies in an area of Northeast India that became Assam estate. At the turn of the century, India surpassed China in tea exports of Indian tea, hovering near 227 million kilograms.

While Assam grows the most tea, Darjeeling, a mountainous area in the neighboring state of West Bengal, produces some of the world's most popular and expensive teas. In 1992, one plantation set a record by selling a kilogram of Darjeeling (about 35 ounces) for Rs. 13,001 rupees.

From this small beginning, Indian tea has grown and now occupies a vital place in the international beverage market. It has also been the blenders choice for over 100 years for its quality and consistency. The tea industry in India employs a total of nearly 300,000 workers, working in over 20,000 plantations located in Assam, West Bengal, and Southern India.

Darjeeling

Darjeeling, 2,000 meters above sea level, is one of the world's finest hill resorts with its breathtaking view of the Himalayan range. Here, in this picturesque setting, sheltered by the mighty Kanchenjunga peak, are over 18,000 hectares of tea bushes producing teas unequalled anywhere in the world for their delicate flavor, rich aroma, and exquisite bouquet. Tea of this area, highly prized by connoisseurs, is known as the "Champagne of teas," since it has no equal and fetches the highest prices in the auctions.

The special quality of the Darjeeling tea is due to a number of natural factors such as climate, elevation, type of tea bushes, soil, and even the air that the bushes breathe. The tea gardens in Darjeeling are situated at elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level.

Unfortunately, like all precious things, Darjeeling tea is available only in limited quantities and accounts for only about 3% of India's total production, yielding about 15 million kgs each year. The cropping season for Darjeeling begins in March, following the first light showers after winter. This is the first flush. The second flush is gathered during May and June. Both the first and the second flushes are quite excellent teas.

Unlike the Nilgiris with its continuous plucking potential, Darjeeling has a period of dormancy in winter when plucking came to a standstill. The Darjeeling tea has a brownish black well twisted appearance and shows a lot of golden tip. The liquor produced is light and golden in color with the delectable flavor and aroma which is so characteristic of Darjeeling.

In order to continuously monitor the quality of the Darjeeling teas, a research station has been set up in Darjeeling to ensure that Darjeeling teas remains the "Champagne of teas."

Assam

On both sides of the mighty Brahmaputra river, lie the rolling plains of one of the world's largest tea growing areas covering about 200,000 hectares, the birth place of Indian tea - Assam. Amidst these exciting surroundings are grown 300 million kgs of tea annually producing the strong, pungent, full bodied liquor that has made Assam tea famous all over the world.

In the months of August to October in the Brahmaputra valley, heavy rains account for tremendous growth. This accounts for the fact that 75% of Assam tea is produced during this season. Rightly called the rains tea, it has been found to be more suited for CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) manufacture. The liquor from CTC teas have enhanced characteristics of strength, grip, and color which finds great favor in countries where the preference is in a good, strong cup with milk.

Nilgiris

Literally translated, Nilgiris means the Blue Mountains and the Nilgiris are a spectacular mountain range in South India, situated near the magnificent mountains of the Western Ghats. It is a land of peaks and precipices, rolling grasslands in the foothills and dense jungles. It is against this idyllic background the famous Nilgiri teas are grown.

The Nilgiri teas are relatively mild teas growing all year round unlike the seasonal Assams brisk liquor coupled with their mellow, light, clean flavor. Their fine, true flavor is the choice of connoisseurs and blenders across the globe.

The soil, the climate, the water, all combine to make the Nilgiri teas famous for their quality and cup character. The Nilgiri teas are the blenders' dream, for while other highgrown teas have flavor, Nilgiri teas give the liquor body and strength as well.

Statistics

Total production of India teas have reached an all time record of nearly 741 million kgs in 1991. The teas are mainly marketed through the auction system. The gardens send their produce to warehouses, where they are kept in anticipation of being sold.

As per the statutory requirement, 75% of the gardens' produce has to be sold through auctions and the rest through private sales. The main auction centers are Silgiguri, Guwahati, Conoor, London, Mombasa, Singapore, etc. On an average, purchases from tea auctions have accounted for between 82-85% of the total exports.

Auctions play the role of watch-dog over the standard of teas being sold since the professional brokers involved in fixing the price of teas available for auctions are experts in tea tasting, blending, and packaging. This ensures that the quality of Indian tea reaching the consumer has gone through the research and testing process, ensuring that the consumer gets the best value for their money spent on tea.

The prospects for the Indian tea industry for the current year are satisfactory. When compared to 1992, the tea industry can justifiably expect an improvement in production and exports during 1993.

Further, in the domestic market which, because of its sheer size is crucial to the industry, strong demand should see auction prices ruling at levels appreciably higher in 1992, enabling producers to manage the significant rise in costs.

These conclusions follow from the just-released Tea Market Annual Report for 1992 of J. Thomas & Co. Production in 1993 should be in the region of 740 million kilograms, thus almost entirely recovering the shortfall last year, when the output dropped to 703.9 million kg from 741.7 million kg. in 1991. The bulk of the increase was expected from North India whose production in 1992 was 545.3 million kg. 11.4 million kg lower in 1991.

South India, which registered an output of 158.6 million against 185 million kg of 1991, accounted for the bulk of the decline last year. This year South India may be found trying hard to be close to the 1991 level.

The buoyancy of the market at least up to mid-1993, forecast in the review as the direct result of the lower production last year, has since materialized. Price movements in the subsequent months would largely depend upon the availability of tea, particularly the trend of production in the heavy cropping months of August, September, and October.

In regard to the orthodox categories, the uncertainties notwithstanding, prices could show an uptrend in view of the continued demand envisaged from Iran and other Middle East Countries

New Logos

In its effort to ensure that connoisseurs of Indian tea get the real thing, the Tea Board of India has developed three distinctive symbols to denote the three basis varieties of tea from India - Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiris.

Darjeeling, the "Champagne of teas" is distinguished by the logo of a woman holding two leaves in hand, signifying that this variety of tea is the finest and most delicately flavored of all teas.

Similarly, the Assam logo has a Rhino against the background of tea leaves. The Nilgiri tea has the logo of mountain ranges as the backdrop for the tea leaves, making the consumer aware of the fine flavor and brisk liquor of teas from the South.

These symbols and logos would enable the consumer to immediately recognize the really high quality Indian teas.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Nambiar, Madyavan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:1427
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