The History of Assam Tea
Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Tea in India is so popular that liking for it has reached the point of adoration. The best quality tea in India pours chiefly from Assam. It was way back in 1823 that Robert Bruce , a merchant and soldier, first spotted tea plant in Assam and this eventually led to East-India company developing a trade in it. A visit from Dr. Wallich to Assam in 1834 saw the formation of the Assam Company in England. Among the Indians, it was, however, Maniram Dewan, an Assamese noble man, who initiated planting tea leading many others, mostly Assamese, to follow in his footsteps. Assam is the biggest producer of quality tea in India, contributing about 55 per cent to country‘s total tea production. As pointed out by Bhuyan (1974) the tea plant was discovered in 1823 by Robert Bruce, merchant and soldier of fortune, during his visit to Rongpur, where he was imprisoned by the Burmese. A Singpho chief furnished Bruce with some plants. In 1824 Robert Bruce gave some plants to his brother C. A. Bruce who handed them over to David Scott. Scott in turn gave a few specimens to the Botanical Garden, Calcutta. The discovery of tea plant in Assam enabled the East India Company to develop a trade, which China had hitherto monopolized. Bruce was appointed superintendent of the government tea forest, who in 1837 sent 46 boxes of Assam tea to the tea committee. When, in 1824, Dr. N. Wallich of Botanical Garden identified these specimens it was the beginning of the scientific study of tea in India. Dr. Wallich visited Assam in 1834 and submitted his report in 1835. The Assam Company was accordingly formed in England in 1839 with a capital of US $ 8000. The Assam Company with its headquarters in Nazira is the oldest commercial tea company of Assam which is still functioning. The second company was formed in 1859 as the Jorhat Tea Company and even today its central office is at Jorhat. According to the Directorate of Tea, Govt. of Assam, there are about 28,000 small tea gardens in the State producing about 70 million kgs tea annually (cf. 451 million kgs mentioned above).
First Tea Garden of Assam Established by Maniram Dewan in 1850.According to another report, Assam has over 800 tea plantations that are of medium to large size. There are also over 200,000 small-scale cooperative and individual tea farms. On an average, Assam produces over 480 million kilogram of tea per year, making it the largest tea growing region in the world (North East Enquirer, 2002).