The bright sides of Assam tea and Indian Economy

Guwahati,Prangan Duarah: There is nothing better to start a day with a hot cup of tea. Next to water, tea is the most widely-consumed beverage in the world. Tea likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. India is ranked second among largest tea producing countries and largest tea consumer of the world. India consumes nearly 30% of world’s tea output. Assam is one of the leading tea producing regions in India. According to a survey, there are 850 tea estates in Assam and more than 100,000 smaller gardens, which produce 570 million kilos of tea annually.

(Photo source: Wikipedia )

Assam has a very rich tea culture. It is known that the tea plant was a wild plant in Assam that was indeed introduced by Boro people of Assam. According to Bhuyan (1974), the tea plant was discovered by Robert Bruce, a Scotties adventurer, during his Rongpur visit in 1823, where he was imprisoned by the Burmese. The Singpho tribe, inhabitants of the Assam where the tea plant grew native, has been consuming tea since the 12th century. A Singpho chief furnished Bruce with some plants. C. A. Bruce, Robart Bruch’s brother, handed over some plant to David Scott, which was given by Robert Bruce in 1824. Scott, in turn, gave a few specimens to the Botanical Garden, Calcutta. In 1824, Dr. N. Wallich of Botanical Garden identified these specimens it was the beginning of the scientific study of tea in India. The discovery of tea plant in Assam attracted the East India Company to develop a trade. Bruce was appointed as a superintendent of the government tea forest, who sent 46 boxes of Assam tea to the tea committee in 1837. Dr. Wallich visited Assam in 1834 and submitted his report in 1835. The Assam Company was established in England in 1839. The headquater of Assam Tea Company was established in Nazira, which is the oldest commercial tea company of Assam. The second company was formed in 1859 as the Jorhat Tea Company. In 1835, 12 boxes of tea manufactured by the Singpho chiefs were shipped from Calcutta to London. The first auction of tea was conducted by Ms McKenzie Lyll& Company, which took place in London on May 26, 1841.

ManiramDuttaBarma, popularly known as ManiramDewan, an Assamese nobleman, was the one of the first people to establish the plantation of tea. He was a Dewan of Assam Company until he resigned in 1841 to start his own tea estate. He had two gardens at Jorhat and near Sonari. But the British hanged him in 1858 for taking part in mutiny in 1857. After this incident, many others, mostly Assamese, came forward to plant tea. Someswar Sharma became the first Indian superintendent of the tea industry of the Manband Tea Company.

After independence, a drastic change took place in Assam tea companies. Some of the tea estates in Assam came under the control of Indians, like Birla, Poddar, Tata, by purchasing maximum shares at the stock exchange or buying the tea estates directly. Now about 17% of workers of Assam are engaged in the tea industry. Assam plantation generally produces black tea; the region also produces smaller quantities of green and white tea. Tea remains a vital part of Assam economy. Assam tea has its own identity and tradition. Today Assam has 850 tea-estates in different district in the region. The success of auction programmers like the Assam tea Auction in Assam and in Kolkata has allowed different regions to establish their own identity.