• The tea industry in India is about 170 years old. It occupies an important place and plays a very useful part in the national economy.
  • Robert Bruce in 1823 discovered tea plants Camellia sinensis saplings from China planting the saplings first in the northern Indian town of Saharanpur, near Kumaon (where much of our single-origin tea flourishes) and growing wild in upper Brahmaputra Valley.
  • In 1838 the first Indian tea from Assam was sent to United Kingdom for public sale. Thereafter, it was extended to other parts of the country between 50’s and 60’s of the last century.
  • China was the world’s first producer of tea, and much of the equipment used to craft tea worldwide was adapted from ancient Chinese methods.
  • East India Company established tea plantations in Assam as a result of British colonial India’s need to buy tea from China, which put a serious financial strain on the country’s finances.
  • India began exporting tea to the rest of the world as tea output rose. The economy of the country benefited from this.
  • India was one of the world’s top producers of tea by the 1850s. Local tea brands were made available to the general public as a beverage following independence.
  • After the Charter Act of 1833, the East India Company lost its trade monopoly with China. The Tea Committee was established in 1834, under William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India.
  • An interesting fact about Tea gardens in Assam is that they do not follow Indian Standard Time (IST). The local time in Assam’s tea gardens, known as “Tea Garden Time” or Bagantime, is an hour ahead of the IST. The system was introduced during British days because of the early sunrise in this part of the country.
  • Significance:
    • The tea industry being one of the most important cash crops is a main source of income and export revenues for some of the poorest countries and, as a labour-intensive sector, provides jobs, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas.
      • Tea production and processing contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including reduction of extreme poverty (Goal 1), the fight against hunger (Goal 2), the empowerment of women (Goal 5) and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (Goal 15).
    • It also has cultural significance in many societies.
  • Health benefits:
    • Tea consumption can bring health benefits and wellness due to the beverage’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and weight loss effects.
  • International Tea Day:
    • It is observed on 21st May every year after it was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019.

State of Indian Tea Industry

  • Production
    • As of a survey 2018 total of 6.37 lakh hectare of area was cultivated for tea production in Idia.
    • India is the second-largest producer of tea globally.
      • The northern part of India is the biggest producer at about 83% of the country’s annual tea production in 2021-22 with the majority of the production coming from Assam followed by West Bengal.
        • The Assam valley and Cachar are the two tea producing regions in Assam.
        • In West Bengal, Dooars, Terai and Darjeeling are the three major tea producer regions.
      • The southern part of India produces about 17% of the country’s total production with the major producing states being Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
      • The other areas where tea is grown to a small extent are Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Bihar and Orissa.
      • Kangra Valley is famous for its green teas which is the specialty of the region.
      • India’s total tea production for the financial year 2022-23, it was 1,373.37 million kg.
      • The tea industry in India includes small and big growers and government plantations.
      • Small tea growers in India are economically and socially susceptible as they are mostly marginal farmers.
      • Many of the small farmers do not have rights over the land they cultivate. For the last two decades, Indian tea industry has witnessed many structural changes.
      • Some of the problems faced by the tea industry in the recent years are crises in the tea industry, abandoning tea estates, low productivity, low profit and low export.
      • Assam is the only region in the world that has its own variety of tea, called Camellia Assamica. Assam tea gives a malty sweetness and an earthy flavor, as opposed to the floral aroma of highland (e.g. Darjeeling, Taiwanese) teas.
    • The manufacturing of tea goes through different stages –
      • withering
      • rolling,
      • fermenting
      • firing or drying,
      • shifting and grading and
      • Packing.
  • Ideal climate condition for tea cultivation:
    • Originate in tropical and subtropical climates.
      • Major tea growing regions are mainly concentrated in Asia, Africa, South America.
    • Tea requires cool to warm temperatures with at least 5 hours of sunlight per day.
      • The average annual temperature for tea plants to grow well is in the range of 15 – 23°C.
      • The rainfall needed is between 150-200 cm.
    • Soil: The most suitable soil for tea cultivation is slightly acidic soil (without calcium) with porous sub-soil which permits a free percolation of water.
  • Consumption: India is also among the world’s top tea consuming countries, with 80% of the tea produced in the country consumed by the domestic population.
  • Geographical Indication (GI) Tag: Darjeeling Tea also known as “Champagne of teas,” worldwide because of its flowery scent was the 1st GI tag product. Other two variants of Darjeeling tea i.e., Green and White tea also hold GI tags.
  • Export:
    • India is among the top 5 tea exporters in the world making about 10% of the total exports.
    • India exports tea to more than 25 countries throughout the world. Russia, Iran, UAE, USA, the UK, Germany, and China are some of the major importers of tea from India.
    • The majority of the tea exported out of India is black tea which makes up about 96% of the total exports.
      • The types of tea exported through India are: Black tea, Regular tea, Green tea, Herbal tea, Masala tea and Lemon tea.
        • Out of these, black tea, regular tea and green tea make up approximately 80%, 16% and 3.5% of the total tea exported from India.
      • Indian Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiritea are considered one of the finest in the world.
        • Indian tea is one of the finest in the world due to strong geographical indications, heavy investment in tea processing units, continuous innovation, augmented product mix, and strategic market expansion.
  • Regulation of the Industry: Tea Board of India is in charge of developing and promoting the tea industry in India.

Tea Board of India

  • It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Commerce that was set up in 1953 for the development of tea industry in India. It started functioning in 1954.
  • Objective: Its vision and mission is to make the country a leading producer of tea across the globe for which it established several programmes and schemes.
  • Members: The Board is constituted of 31 members (including Chairman) drawn from Members of Parliament, tea producers, tea traders, tea brokers, consumers, and representatives of Governments from the principal tea producing states, and trade unions
  • The Board is reconstituted every three years.
  • Offices in India: The board has its headquarters located in Kolkata and 17 other offices across India.
  • Foreign Offices: Currently Tea Board has two overseas offices located at Dubai, and Moscow.
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Initiatives taken by Tea Board of India

  • Promotion for packaged Tea of Indian origin:
    • The scheme provides assistance in promotional campaigns – up to 25% of the cost reimbursement, display in International Departmental Stores, product literature and website development, and inspection charges reimbursement of up to 25% of the charges.
  • Subsidies for Domestic Exporters:
    • The Tea Board also provides subsidies to the domestic exporters to participate in International Fairs and Exhibitions.
  • Tea Development and Promotion Scheme:
    • This scheme was launched in November 2021 by the Tea Board of India for the period of 2021-26.
    • The objective of this scheme is to enhance the productivity and quality of the production in India.
    • There are seven important components to this scheme:
      • Plantation development of small tea farmers
      • Creation of sector specific actions plan for North East India
      • Supporting the tea producers and trader in market promotion activities
      • Worker’s welfare
      • Research and development activities
      • Regulatory reforms
      • Establishment expenses
      • Online Licensing System (auto-renewal of 3 types of licenses i.e., exporter license, tea waste license and tea warehouse license).
  • Chai Sahyog Mobile App:
    • It addresses various issues of small tea growers.

Indian Tea Industry Facing Challenges

  • The major competitive countries in tea in the world are Sri Lanka, Kenya, China and Indonesia.
  • China is the major producer of green tea while Sri Lanka and Indonesia are producing mainly orthodox varieties of tea.
  • Kenya is basically a CTC tea producing country. While India is facing competition from Sri Lanka and Indonesia with regard to export of orthodox teas and from China with regard to green tea export, it is facing competition from Kenya and from other African countries in exporting CTC teas.
  • Because of absence of large domestic base and due to comparatively small range of exportable items, Sri Lanka and Kenya have an edge over India to offload their teas in any international markets.
  • This is one of the reasons of higher volume of export by Sri Lanka and Kenya compared to India. Another important point is that, U.K has substantial interest in tea cultivation in Kenya.
  • Most of the sterling companies, after Indianisation due to implementation of FERA Act started tea cultivation in Kenya. So, it makes business sense for U.K. to buy tea from Kenya and Kenya became the largest supplier of tea to U.K.

Steps to encourage the Growth of Indian Tea Industry

  • One District and One Product (ODOP) scheme can help spreading the glory of Indian Tea.
  • In order to make the tea sector profitable, viable and sustainable, the ‘AROMA’ of tea must be enhanced:
    • Assistance: Support small growers to improve quality with sustainability, increase production to meet domestic and international demand.
    • Re-energise: Create infrastructure to augment exports and focus on high value markets such as EU, Canada, South America & Middle East.
    • Organic: Promote organic and GI tea through brand promotion and marketing.
    • Modernisation: To enable tea farmers to become self-reliant and strengthen local supply chains.
    • Adaptability: Focus on the importance of a risk proof ecosystem, that is, the need for sustainable solutions to make tea plantations meet the challenges of climate change.

Indian Tea Association’s (ITA’s) 

  • Founded in 1881, the Indian Tea Association is the premier and the oldest organization of tea producers in India.
  • The Association has played a multi-dimensional role towards formulating policies and initiating action towards the development and growth of the Industry, liaising with the Tea Board, Government and other related bodies.
  • The ITA has branches at different locations in Assam and West Bengal. With over 425 member gardens, the ITA and its branches represent over 60% of India’s total tea production. 

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