The oldest known beverage, tea is native of China and the word tea is derived from t’e of the Chinese Fukien dialect. The Dutch introduced it to Europe. In Cantonese, tea is known as Ch’a and this is the name by which this wonderful beverage came to be known in Japan, India, Russia, Iran and the Middle East. Use of tea as a beverage commenced towards the close of the sixth century. Tea belongs to the genus Camellia and family Camelliaceae. Morphologically, tea is an evergreen shrub or tree, leaves are simple, alternate, serrate, flowere bisexual, with superior ovary, fruit is a capsule.
Brought from China to India by the British, the beverage has found an important home in its adopted country where, at present, there are over 1,585 tea gardens and a workforce of more than 1.1 million people.
India is not only the second-largest producer of tea in the world but also has the highest consumption of this hot beverage with about three-fourths of the country’s total produce consumed locally. The estimated tea production in India is 179.01 million kgs (July 2021).
Indian tea is among the finest in the world owing to strong geographical indications, heavy investment in tea processing units, continuous innovation, augmented product mix and strategic market expansion. The main tea-growing regions are in the Northeast (including Assam) and in north Bengal (Darjeeling district and the Dooars region). Tea is also grown on a large scale in the Nilgiris in south India.
The country is home to a wide variety of teas, including CTC tea, orthodox tea, green tea and organic tea. Unlike many other teas producing and exporting nations, India has a manufacturing base for both CTC and orthodox tea in addition to green tea.
India offers high-quality specialty teas, such as Darjeeling, Assam Orthodox and the high-range Nilgiris, which have a distinctive aroma, strength, colour and flavour.
First planted in the early 1800s, the incomparable quality of Darjeeling Tea is the result of its locational climate, soil conditions, altitude and meticulous processing. About 10 million kilograms are grown every year, spread over 17,500 hectares of land. The tea has its own special aroma, that rare fragrance that fills the senses. Tea from Darjeeling has been savored by connoisseurs all over the world. Like all luxury brands Darjeeling Tea is aspired to, worldwide.
Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 600 to 2,000 metre above sea level.
Annual Rainfall: The average annual rainfall in Darjeeling ranges around the 309cm mark.
Tea Attributes: The Darjeeling tea when brewed gives a colour of pale lemon to rich amber. The brew is said to have remarkable varying degrees of visual brightness, depth and body. The flavor emanating from the brew is a fragrance with a complex and pleasing taste and aftertaste with attributes of aroma, bouquet and point. The organoleptic characteristics of the Darjeeling tea brew are commonly referred to as mellow, smooth, round, delicate, mature, sweet, lively, dry and brisk.
Assam means ‘one without equal’ and that is really true about its teas. They say ‘you haven’t woken up fully if you haven’t sipped Assam tea’. The strong tea, grown on the rolling plains by the Brahmaputra river that weaves her way through vales and hills, is famous for its smooth malty flavor. A taste crafted by the region’s rich loamy soil, unique climate and liberal rainfall. Assam is the largest contiguous tea-growing area in the world. Both Orthodox and CTC (Crush/Tear/Curl) varieties of tea are manufactured here. Assam Orthodox Tea is a registered Geographical Indication (GI).
Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 45 to 60 metre above sea level.
Annual Rainfall: 250 to 380cm.
Tea Attributes: Assam Tea has a rich, deep-amber color and is famous for its rich, full-bodied cup. It is known for its brisk, strong and malty character, making it a perfect tea to wake up to. The distinctive second flush orthodox Assam teas are valued for their rich taste, bright liquors and are considered to be one of the choicest teas in the world.
The beautiful Nilgiri Hills, sprawling through the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, are home to the pastoral Toda tribe and tea gardens that create the fragrant cup of tea. Nilgiri tea has a slightly fruity, minty flavor, probably because trees like the Blue Gum and Eucalyptus dot the region. And perhaps the spices produced in close proximity to the tea gardens lend the light brew its briskness. The balanced blend of flavor and body makes Nilgiri tea a ‘blender’s dream’. The tea leaves grown here are plucked around the year. Nilgiri Orthodox tea is a registered Geographical Indication (GI). Both Orthodox and CTC varieties of tea are manufactured in this region.
Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 metre above sea level.
Annual Rainfall: 150 to 230cm.
Tea Attributes: A deliciously fragrant and exquisitely aromatic tea, with high tones of delicate floral notes and a golden yellow liquor. Crisply brisk and bright. Lingering notes of dusk flowers with an undercurrent of briskness. Creamy mouth feel. A truly flavored tea for a stressful day.
There is nothing finer than Kangra tea. The climate, the characteristic terrain and soil conditions, and the coolness of the snow-clad mountains in Himachal’s famous Kangra region; all play a role in crafting a delightfully distinct cup of quality tea.
Being one of India’s smallest tea regions makes Kangra green and black tea all the more exclusive. While the black tea has a sweet lingering after taste, the green tea has a delicate woody aroma. The demand for Kangra tea has been increasing steadily and much of it is bought by natives and exported to Kabul and Central Asia via Peshawar. Kangra tea is a registered Geographical Indication (GI).
Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 900 to 1,400 metre above sea level.
Annual Rainfall: 270 to 350cm.
Tea Attributes: The first flush of Kangra tea is known for quality, unique aroma and tinge of fruity flavor. A little milder than Darjeeling tea in terms of flavor, Kangra tea has more body and liquor.
The tea-growing areas in the district of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, along with a small part of Coochbehar district, is popularly known as Dooars, meaning doors in Bengali, Assamese and Nepali. Although tea cultivation in Dooars was primarily engineered by the British planters through their agency enterprises, there was significant contribution of Indian entrepreneurs who set up considerable number of new plantations with the issuance of grants of lands in a phased manner.
Elevation: Teas are grown at elevations ranging from 90 to 1750 metre above sea level.
Annual Rainfall: About 350cm.
Tea Attributes: The Dooars-Terai tea is characterized by a bright, smooth and full-bodied liquor that’s a wee bit lighter than Assam tea.
The cultivation of tea in Sikkim started with the establishment of its first tea garden in 1969 — the Temi Tea Estate. Another boutique garden was added to the fold of Sikkim Tea when the Bermiok tea garden was established in the year 2002. The first flush of Sikkim Tea, harvested during springtime, has a unique taste and aroma. The refined golden liquor has a light floral finish and a hint of sweet lingering taste. Mellow and smooth, the second flush of Sikkim Tea is a toasty brew, with a heady, strong yet smooth brew. The third flush or Monsoon Flush of Sikkim Tea creates a full bodied cup with mellow taste. The final flush or Autumn Flush of Sikkim Tea has a well-rounded taste and the light hint of warm spices. This amber liquor is the perfect end to the seasons of tea.
Besides these black tea varieties, Sikkim also produces the delicate white tea, which is manufactured from the buds and unfurled new leaves; green tea, which is known for its flowery liquor; and Oolong tea, which is fruity, fragrant and earthy
Tripura has a history of tea plantations dating back to the year 1916 when the erstwhile ruler of the princely state of Tripura granted leases of extensive land for tea cultivation exclusively to Indian planters. Tea is the second largest organized industry in the state of Tripura after Rubber. The state receives annual rainfall of about 2,100 mm uniformly distributed throughout the year and the temperature varies from 10 degrees Celsius to 35 degrees Celsius. Mainly CTC tea is produced in Tripura, with a small amount of green tea being also produced.
Ideal Soil and Climate
Tea requires a moderately hot and humid climate. Climate influences yield, crop distribution and quality. Tea grows best on well-drained fertile acid soil on high lands.
The ambient temperature within 13°C and 28-32°C is conducive for growth of tea. A humid climate and high RH favours growth of tea.
Tea grows well on high land well drained soils having a good depth, acidic pH in the range 4.5 to 5.5 and more than 2% organic matter. Shallow and compacted sub-soils limit root growth.
Tea – All India Area and Production
Source: Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
(P) – Provisional, * Agricultural Crops as per 4th Advance estimates
Major tea producing and exporting countries are China, India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka and they account for 81% and 73% of world production and exports respectively. India’s total tea export stood at US$ 700.41 million in FY21 and US$ 684.86 in FY22. India is the fourth largest tea exporter in the world (10 per cent of global exports) after Kenya (29 per cent), China (19 per cent), and Sri Lanka (15 per cent).
Tea Exports From India
Source:Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India