Use of tea as a drink was invented in China in the later part of 2k BC. It is a popular drink all over the world. Drinking tea has multiple advantages. It is energetic and increases immunity to fight against inflammatory effects and other diseases. Before the 19th century, China held about 90% share of tea exports to all of Europe including Britain. Britain had to import tea against silver from China. Gradually the silver reserve of the country reached the bottom and compelled them to find a new avenue. They explored many places in their colonial countries in Southeast Asia and finally started tea cultivation in Darjeeling and Assam for two species of tea plants. For Darjeeling plants suitable for high altitude and cold weather, like China were planted. Plants for low altitude and warm weather were cultivated in Assam. They are high yielding and called Assam Bush.
In 1823 Robert Bruce from Scotland first recognized Assam as a favourable place for tea cultivation because he noticed huge plants resembling tea plants scattered here and there. Bruce collected them and on examination, he found the right kind of plant. His discovery of C. Sinensis var. Assamica was the first kind of Assam tea. Assam tea is black with strong, courageous and malty flavoured. Assam has one of the best climates with sufficient rainfall and loamy soil in the world for growing tea, making it one of the most sought-after teas worldwide. This place has favourable temperature and humidity conditions. Assam tea is now well known for having a robust flavour and aroma that have made it a favourite among tea enthusiasts.
Assam tea production occupies a remarkable position in India and in the world as well. Assam tea satisfies more than two third of the domestic tea market demand and is sent in huge quantities to the world market. Tea plants take a couple of years to mature. In Assam tea plants were found during the 1820s and commercial production was started in the 1850s. Tea gardens brought a high return on investment, so this industry spread quickly. Many new gardens were established and existing gardens were expanded. In a short span, Assam tea became the leader in the world. Many renowned foreign companies like Tetley, Typhoo, Camellia PLC etc. started their business in Assam. Famous brands like Lipton and Goodricke of Assam tea became Indian tea giants.
After independence, the Government of India paid its concern to the tea industry. Tea is a labour-oriented industry and a huge number of employees are required to run tea gardens. A large number of people from the whole eastern part of the country migrated to Assam. When tea exports went down, the Government took special care of the cultivators and helped to increase sales and exports. The government directed the nationalised bank to provide Special Tea Term Loan (STTL) with a subsidised lending rate and Working Capital Loan for uninterrupted tea production. In Assam, major gardens have their own factories to process green leaves and buds into finished tea and necessary packaging. While small gardens do not have their own factory to do the job from nearby factories. Previously manually operated machines were used in factories. Now sophisticated auto machines are used to produce tea and for packaging. Assam tea is auctioned in Kolkata and Guwahati. The quality of Assam tea depends on how it is brewed. To get the optimum taste and flavour, tea should be brewed in the proper manner.
For growing tea, low and medium sunshine is required. To protect tea plants from tremendous sunshine, shed trees are planted first. All gardens have nurseries to develop new plants. Seeds are germinated to get saplings. The life of a plant is almost 60 years. After that, they have to be uprooted and saplings are transplanted there for getting uninterrupted raw materials. The gardens have to be kept clear by weeding for the natural growth of the tea bushes. Pesticides and fertilisers are to be applied for healthy production.
Harvesting tea leaves and buds is done manually. Female labourers are employed to pick up the top newly grown lush leaves with a little portion of the stem by their hands. After plucking they collect those leaves into a long basket tied to their back. At the end of the day, all leaves and buds are sent to the factory for processing.
Brewing is the most important part of consuming a cup of tea. It is the final touch to make the tea attractive. The improper brew can make your tea bitter or less flavoured. The steps and timings for brewing are different for different kinds of tea. There are three steps to making a good cup of tea. The quality of tea is the basic factor for brewing a proper cup of tea. It depends upon the requirement of customers. Some People are fond of the flavour, while others like strong tea. Next is adding hot water to tea. You need hotter water to get more flavour and when your tea becomes bitter, use less hot water to minimise the bitterness. The last step is to separate the brewed tea from the leaves. To get the proper cup of tea, the timing for the separation of leaves is mandatory. It varies according to the quality of the tea.
Caffeine is a component of tea. It contains a high proportion of Assam tea. More caffeine makes the tea strong and black. All species of Assam teas are not the same strength. The level of caffeine depends on plants, the kind of leaves, harvesting and brewing tea. Black strong Assam teas are slightly bitter in taste, but energetic and robust flavoured. Generally, black teas are strong in their oxidation.
In our country, Assam tea is popular because of its taste and contentment at a low cost. It is affordable for a large number of people. Assam tea is available in many qualities and quantities within the reach of general people. For high levels of caffeine, this tea gives more energy and a mental boost. Assam tea plays a great role in the international tea market. It generates a good amount of foreign exchange for the country.