TODAY -

Tea in Assam

Sanjoo Thangjam *



Assam is known throughout the World for Producing the Finest Teas.

The Britishers who ruled India in the 19th Century had a liking for Tea which they bought from China. They slowly started Trading this Tea in New Markets of Europe and America and made handsome profits.

The Chinese realizing this, started bargaining with the Britishers for payments in Gold. Soon it was the Chinese who were gaining the most as other European Countries like Portugal also started competing and buying Tea from China.

Robert Bruce, an Englishman posted in Assam saw a Singhpo Chief in Sadiya in upper Brahmaputra plucking few bushes and brewing it and drinking it. This tasted almost like the Chinese Tea.

He took some of the plants to Kolkata and the Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens identified that the Tea Plants from China were smaller and that it was called “Camellia Chinensis” and the Tea Plants and Leaves of Assam were bigger and Broader in size and was named “Camellia Assamica”.

Now the Britishers were excited as they did not have to depend on China for their Supply of Tea and Land was cleared in Upper Assam and planted in a big scale from local Assamica Tea plants from 1838.

In January 1939, the first lot of Assam Teas was sold in London Auction and ever since Assam has never Looked back. The number of Tea Gardens started increasing yearly as the demand for the brew grew Stronger. Elephants were used to clear the Land.

Initially Chinese men were smuggled from China as the Britishers did not have much idea of Planting and Processing. It is believed that Chinese have been drinking Tea for last 1500 years or more. Tea grows in China in different region and interestingly one Province in China is close to Assam/Arunachal Border.

As tea is labour Intensive, it requires manual Works like Plucking, Spraying, Draining and Pruning, there was not enough people in Assam. So, the Britishers started getting Migrant Labour especially Tribals from Bihar, Jharkand, Orrisa and West Bengal who could adjust to the Lifestyle.

Tea requires regular rainfall, hot and humid weather conditions. The Soil in Assam was also suitable for healthy growth of Tea so all these factors gave Assam the edge.

Today, tea is grown in 40 Countries in the World and India is the biggest Producer of Tea and Assam accounts for around 50 % of India Tea Production. Assam mainly produces the CTC type Tea (Cut, Tear Crush) which are in granular form.

This type of Manufacture was invented in Assam and is a Strong Drinking Tea with which we add milk and sugar. Another Type of Tea is the Orthodox Tea which is primarily known as - “Rolled in Rolling Table Machines”. These Tea are longish and Self Drinking Teas.

China mainly Makes Green Tea where leaves are steamed immediately after plucking and rolled and dried.

Tea contains a compound called Caffiene which is a stimulant and that is why you feel energized after drinking Tea.

Lastly, Black Tea, i.e CTC and Orthodox contain a compound Theaflavin which scientists are verifying and claiming that, it is an Anti Virius and is helpful in preventing Covid-19.

SO DRINK TEA AND BE SAFE


* Sanjoo Thangjam wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on October 23 2020.



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