Assam tea is a black tea named after the region of its production, Assam, in India. Assam tea is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Masters). This tea, most of which is grown at or near sea level, is known for its body, briskness, malty flavor, and strong, bright color. Assam teas, or blends containing Assam, are often sold as “breakfast” teas. For instance, Irish breakfast tea, a maltier and stronger breakfast tea, consists of small-sized Assam tea leaves. The state of Assam is the world’s largest tea-growing region, lying on either side of the Brahmaputra River, and bordering Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar). This part of India experiences high precipitation; during the monsoon period, as much as 10 to 12 inches (250–300 mm) of rain per day. The daytime temperature rises to about 103F (40 °C), creating greenhouse-like conditions of extreme humidity and heat. This tropical climate contributes to Assam’s unique malty taste, a feature for which this tea is well known. Though Assam generally denotes the distinctive black teas from Assam, the region produces smaller quantities of green and white teas as well with their own distinctive characteristics. Historically, Assam has been the second commercial tea production region after southern China. Southern China and Assam are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants. Introduction to the West
Further information: History of tea in India
This 1850 engraving shows the different stages in the process of making tea in Assam. The recurring colonial myth of “discovery” informs the history of the Assam tea bush and is attributed to one Robert Bruce, a Scottish adventurer, who apparently encountered it in the year 1823. Bruce reportedly found the plant growing “wild” in Assam while trading in the region. Maniram Dewan directed him to the local Singpho chief Bessa Gam. Bruce noticed local tribesmen (the Singhpos) brewing tea from the leaves of the bush and arranged with the tribal chiefs to provide him with samples of the leaves and seeds, which he planned to have scientifically examined. Robert Bruce died shortly thereafter, without having seen the plant properly classified. It was not until the early 1830s that Robert’s brother, Charles, arranged for a few leaves from the Assam tea bush to be sent to the botanical gardens in Calcutta for proper examination. There, the plant was finally identified as a variety of tea, or Camellia sinensis, but different from the Chinese version (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis). Sales in the United Kingdom
A box of Assam tea
The intervention of the colonising British East India Company was realised through a body of ‘experts’ constituting the Tea Committee (1834) to assess the scientific nature and commercial potential of Assam tea. The adherence of the members of the committee to the Chinese ideal (in terms of the plant and the method of manufacture) led to the importation of Chinese tea makers and Chinese tea seeds to displace the “wild” plant and methods obtained in Assam. After a period, however, a hybridized version of the Chinese and Assam tea plants proved to be more successful in the Assam climate and terrain. By the late 1830s, a market for Assam tea was being assessed in London; and the positive feedback led the East India Company to inaugurate a long drawn process of dispossession of agricultural land and forest commons through the infamous ‘Wasteland Acts’ allowing significant portions of the province by private capital to be transformed into tea plantations. The close symbiotic relationship of the colonial state and plantation capitalism through the colonial period is most succinctly captured in the term Planter-Raj. Production
A teaworker plucking tea leaves in a tea garden of Assam
The cultivation and production of Assam tea in the first two decades (1840–1860) were monopolised by the Assam Company, which operated in districts of Upper Assam and through the labour of the local Kachari labour. The success of the company and the changes in colonial policy of offering land to the tea planters (Fee simple rules) led to a period of boom and expansion in the Assam tea industry in the early 1860s, but these could not necessarily be translated into a dramatic shift in production (from China to Assam) due to the “makeshift” nature of plantations, poor conditions of life on plantation (huge rates of mortality and desertion), and also at times the presence of pure speculative capital with no interest in tea production.
Short Essay on Tea Plantation in Assam
By Darshan Kadu
The hundreds of lush green tea-gardens nestling in the Himalayan foothills of Assam have not only added charm to the states natural beauty but also forms the backbone of its economy. They are the lifeline without which the state would have remained impoverished, undeveloped and economically at its lowest rung. Today tea industry of Assam constitutes its largest industry, providing livelihood, revenue, employment and development. Tea was first discovered in China and then in Japan. Its origin in India dates back to 1823 when an Englishman named Robert Bruce discovered tea plants in the forests of Assam. Later Charles Alexander, Robert Bruce’s brother started the first tea garden in Assam. In 1828, for the first time Assam tea was sent to England. It was liked by the Britishers and in no time it became very popular in England. This encouraged the East India Company to start commercial cultivation of tea on a large scale. In 1835, the East India Company established its first tea garden in the state. Later in 1844 this garden was sold to Assam Tea Company which had been formed in 1839. Since then the number of tea gardens have increased by leaps and bounds. Today, there are over 900 tea gardens in Assam. These gardens are mosdy found in the districts of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Magaon, Sibsagar, Sonitpur, and Darrang.
The cultivation of tea depends upon following conditions. They are: (i) The soil should be fertile and well- drained (ii) It requires a warm and moist climate throughout the year (iii) The temperature should be 14° C to 27° C (iv) The annual rainfall should be around 150 cm to 250 cm. Frequent showers well distributed over the year is ideal. All these conditions are found in Assam particularly in the Himalayan foothills of the state. Tea can be classified into three classes, namely, fermented or Black tea, unfermented or Green tea, defermented or Oolong tea. The stages and the manner of processing are common for all the three. First, the tender leaves are plucked and then heated for about 18-24 hours after which they are rolled down by machines which make them into small grains. They are then exposed to sun for about 30-40 minutes and then packed and sent for marketing. Assam contributes 15.6% of world’s tea production and 55% of India’s tea output. It is the largest industry of the state, providing employment to thousands of people in the state.
It is estimated that 12.5% of the total population depends on this industry for their livelihood. Tea industry brings in a great deal of revenue to the state exchequer by way of taxes, excise and road levy. The industry has been instrumental in the development of ancillary industries such as, plywood, aluminium, fertilizer, pesticides, communication and transport, warehouse industries, etc. Tea gardens prevent soil erosion, add green cover to the state, lower down humidity and temperature and bring about rain and cool climate in the state. Currently the industry is on a downswing due to bottlenecks such as, militancy, financial crunch, decline in yield per hectare, lack of irrigational facilities, flooding of tea gardens, increased cost of production, fall in the price of tea, stiff international competition, high taxation by the Govt., etc. Tea industry of Assam is in the grip of severe crisis mainly due to the threat of militancy and financial bottlenecks. Unless and until these two key problems are adequately settled the downward sliding of the industry would reach such a point that its return to normalcy would be impossible. The onus of putting the industry back to its rails squarely lies with the state government. But unfortunately signs of remedial steps or quick relief measures are yet to loom in the horizon.
Assam tea (Camellia sinensis var. assamica) is a black tea grown in Assam, India. With a distinctive malty flavor and a bold and invigorating character, Assam tea is a particular favorite for use in breakfast teas. English Breakfast tea and Irish Breakfast tea are both types of teas that are often partially or completely composed of Assam tea leaves. Assam tea possesses a beautiful ruby-amber hue. The Assam tea bush grows in a lowland region, in the valley of the Brahmaputra River, an area of sandy soil rich with the nutrients of the floodplain. The climate varies between a cool, arid winter and a hot, humid rainy season—conditions ideal for it. Because of its lengthy growing season and generous rainfall, Assam is one of the most prolific tea-producing regions in the world. Each year, the tea estates of Assam collectively yield approximately 1.5 million pounds (680,400 kg) of tea. Assam tea is generally harvested twice, in a “first flush” and a “second flush.” The first flush is picked sometime during late March. The second flush, harvested later, is the more prized “tippy tea,” named thus for the gold tips that appear on the leaves.
This second flush, tippy tea is sweeter and more full-bodied and is generally considered superior to the first flush tea. The leaves of the Assam tea bush are dark green and glossy and fairly wide compared to those of the Chinese tea plant. The bush produces delicate white blossoms. It was not until the early 1830s that Robert’s brother, Charles, arranged for a few leaves from the Assam tea bush to be sent to the botanical gardens in Calcutta for proper examination. There, the plant was finally identified as a variety of tea, or Camellia sinensis, but different from the Chinese version (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis). Soon after, the British began to make inroads in tea cultivation in Assam. Originally, tea seeds were imported from China, believed to be superior to the local wild variety. After a period, however, a hybridized version of the Chinese and Indian tea plant developed that proved to be the most successful in the climate and terrain. By the late 1830s, a market for the new Assam tea had become established in London, and pioneering tea planters, Charles Bruce among them, set to clearing swaths in the jungle and laying out their great tea plantations.
Today, there are over six hundred tea estates, or gardens, producing tea in the Assam region. To brew a perfect pot of Assam tea, start with cold water. Never use water that has already been boiled — the end result will be tea that tastes flat and lifeless. If using tap water, let run for a few seconds before filling the kettle. Bring the water to a boil. While the water is heating, fill a ceramic or china teapot with hot tap water and let sit for a few minutes to warm the pot. As soon as water begins to boil, remove the kettle from the burner. Discard the warm water from the teapot and add tea leaves to the empty teapot. For Assam tea, figure on 1 teaspoon (1 g) of tea leaves per cup (240 ml) of hot water. Pack the leaves loosely into a tea ball if desired. Pour boiled water over tea leaves into teapot. Let steep 3 to 5 minutes, and pour through a strainer, for loose tea leaves, into individual cups. Assam tea is full-bodied and merges well with cream, milk, or lemon. If sweetener is desired, honey or sugar may be added prior to adding milk. Stir until dissolved.
DISTRICT OF MAJOR & MINOR TEA PLANTATION IN ASSAM
INTRODUCTION :: The All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association was registered in the year 1987. AASTGA has brought in a green revolution in rural Assam by cultivating tea in unutilized and underutilized uplands and thus bringing huge socio-economic changes in Assam. In the last two decades, the number of small tea growers have swelled to an stounding number of 65000.
Almost 9 lakh people are engaged directly and indirectly in this Association. Around 2.5 lakh hectares of land has been covered by the Small Tea Growers. The members of AASTGA has been contributing about 29% of the total tea produced by Assam which is approximately 14% of the total tea production of India. Small Tea Growers of Assam are playing a vital economic role in the National Tea Industrial scene …
DISTRICTS OF ASSAM HAVING SMALL TEA PLANTATIONS
Major Plantations Minor Plantations
1. Tinsukia 1. Morigaon 2. Dibrugarh 2. Kamrup 3. Sivasagar 3.
Baksha 4. Jorhat 4. Nalbari 5. Golaghat 5. Barpeta 6. Nagaon 7. Kokrajhar Anglong 8. Bongaigaon 9. Darrang 10. Sonitpur 11. Lakhimpur 12. Dhemaji 13. Udalguri 14. Karbi Anglong
Plucking in tea is synonymous with harvesting in other crops. The tender apical portions of shoots consisting of 2-3 leaves and the terminal buds are nipped off in plucking. The plucked shoots are manufactured to produce tea. Removal of the apical portion of a tea shoot stimulates growth of the dormant leaf and buds below the apex. The stimulated buds become active and start laying down initials of cataphylls, known as janams in North East India, of normal leaves and of another appendage intermediate between janam and leaf, which is known as fish leaf. While laying new initials, the bud swells up and after reaching a critical stage, starts unfolding janams, fish leaf and normal leaves in succession. All these appendages carry axil buds, which are capable of producing normal shoots of equal vigour. Advantage has been taken of this unique property in designing plucking system. Plucking systems
Three plucking systems are presently in vogue. They are:
* Janam plucking
* Fish leaf plucking
* Single leaf plucking
In theory, only janam should be left behind on the stubs of plucked shoots when following the janam plucking system, but in practice some fish leaves are also left on the bushes along with janams. This cannot be avoided for the sake of maintaining a flat plucking surface. Similarly, fish leaf plucking and single leaf plucking systems are generally a mixture of the two, with predominance of one or the other. Whatever may be the plucking system, the harvested leaf should not be coarse as coarse leaf is harmful for quality of the product. Secondly, shoots below the plucking surface should be left alone. Janam plucking is the system followed in North East India since under its soil environmental condition; the system has proved superior to the other systems. Other countries claim superiority of one or the other two remaining systems under their cultural conditions. Due to janam plucking, the major bulk of tea produced in North East India is derived from the tiny janam axil buds. Shoot production
Light pruning stimulates the dormant buds on the short 2.5-3 cm pieces of stems known as sticks, to produce a new set of leafy branches, called primaries. When the primaries grow to a pre-set height above the bush frame, these are tipped (broken back) parallel to the ground surface. The average height of the fish leaf on the primaries is the usual height of tipping in N.E. India. All leaves left on the bushes below the tipping level are known as maintenance foliage. Tipping stimulates the buds on the axils of the leaves borne by the primaries, but the stimulus becomes weaker at increasing distance from the point of tipping. As a result, the top most point axil buds of all tipped primaries produce lateral shoots, which declines to 50% in the case of the second axil buds and 25% in the third. The lateral shoots are plucked when they produce two or more leaves above the tipping level. Plucking of these lateral shoots of the first order originating from the axil buds on the primaries stimulates the growth of the second order laterals which when plucked produce the third order laterals and thus the production of successive orders of laterals continue until the end of the plucking season. In N.E. India up to 8th order laterals have been produced in a year. Maintenance foliage
Photosynthetic capacity develops gradually in a young, expanding tea leaf and it does not attain full capacity before attaining more than half its final size. It therefore, follows that the young shoots harvested for the manufacture of tea grow largely at the expense of the metabolites supplied by the mature maintenance foliage remaining below the plucking table. Hence adequacy of maintenance leaves must be assured to ensure sustained productivity of tea bushes. Under conditions of North East India, it has been observed that on an average five maintenance leaves per primary satisfy the requirements for health and productivity of tea. Maintenance leaves on a tipped and plucked primary can remain for a maximum of 18 months, although its efficiency as a photosynthesising organ goes on diminishing after about 6 months. However, a very old maintenance leaf does not draw materials from other maintenance leaves. The leaf drops if it cannot generate enough materials to meet its own need. Standard of plucking
Standard of plucking denotes the type of shoot harvested. Depending on the length of plucking round, or the type of shoots harvested, there may be five standards of plucking as follows: Plucking standard
Name of the System| Shoot size| Breaking back| Plucking Round (days)| % crop gained/loss
over standard plucking|
Fine| 1 + B; small 2 + B | Done | 5/6| – 11.3|
Standard| Large 1 + B; all 2 + Bsmall 3 + B & single banjis| Done| 7| Base| Medium | All 2 + B; 3 + B;
single & double banjis| Not done| 7/8| + 0.5|
Coarse| 3 + B or larger shoots
all banjis| Not done| 8 or more| + 28.2 to 38.4|
Black| All 1 + B; 2 + B &single banjis| Done| 6/7| – 5.0| | | | | |
To maintain a balance between quality and yield, 75% fine and 25% coarse leaf in the harvest is ideal. Plucking rounds
The time interval between two successive plucking is called plucking round. Plucking round may be extended from 4 to 14 days, but to keep a balance between crop and quality, normally 6-8 days plucking round is practised in North East India depending on the growth rate as well as quality of tea one desires to produce. The time required for unfolding of successive leaves from a growing bud vary from 3 to 6 days depending on climatic variation. This is called leaf period. The mean leaf period of seed jat plants of N.E. India is 4 days during the main flushing season and the leaf should be plucked a day earlier than twice of the leaf period (2 x leaf period – 1 = 7 days). The type of shoots left out during previous plucking round determines the size of harvestable shoots in the next round, as is evident from table below: Type of shoots available on different plucking round
Type of shoot
left in the bush | Type of shoots harvested
| 4 days| 8 days| 12 days|
Only bud| 1 + B| 2 + B| 3 + B|
1 + B| 2 + B| 3 + B| 4 + B*|
2 + B| 3 + B| 4 + B*| 5 + B*|
* After 4+B or 5+B shoots go banji
Creep and breaking back
It is advised to pluck close to janam and not allow undue rise (creep) of the plucking table, since the latter results in crop loss. Under normal conditions, the creep should not exceed the following limits: Type of Prune| By end July| By end August| By end November| LP| 2.5 cm| 3.5 cm| 5 – 6 cm|
DS| 2.5 cm| 3 cm| 4.5 – 5 cm|
MS| 2.5 cm| 3 cm| 4 cm|
UP| 2.5 cm| 3 cm| 4 cm|
Under a good plucking system, breaking back is not required. However, this becomes necessary when rounds are very long and supervision is improper as otherwise it results in crop loss. Banji shoots:
Leaving banji shoots on the surface until they come through results in loss of crop, which could be as high as 90 kg/ha. This loss is attributed to : * Uneven surface resulting in inefficient plucking
* Rare production of laterals in such shoots
* Hindrance in the metabolic activity of the whole bush
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This paper aims at analyzing the international trade of the Indian Tea Industry. It gives a brief study about the export and import of Tea in India, and even provides a comparative study of India’s export and import of Tea. The objective is to analyze the trends of import and export in India, compare it with the leading Tea exporter and importer of the world and find the opportunities and threats of the industry in the near future.
Tea is indigenous to India and is an area where the country can take a lot of pride. This is mainly because of its pre-eminence as a foreign exchange earner and its contributions to the country’s GNP. In all aspects of tea production, consumption and export, India has emerged to be the world leader, mainly because it accounts for 31% of global production. It is perhaps the only industry where India has retained its leadership over the last150 years, along with China whose precise numbers are not published.
Tea in India is grown primarily in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Apart from this, it is also grown in small quantities in Karnataka, HP, Tripura, Uttaranchal, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim and Meghalaya. India primarily has a dual tea base, unlike most other tea exporting countries. Both CTC and Orthodox tea is produced in India, along with Green and Oolong tea with comparatively lesser production.
It is an agro based and labour intensive industry. It provides direct employment to over 1 million persons. Through its forward and backward linkages another 10 million persons derive their livelihood from tea. In Northeast India alone, the tea industry employs around 900,000 persons on permanent rolls.
The Tea Industry is one of the largest employers of women amongst organised industries in India. Women constitute nearly 51% of the total workforce