History of Tea
Darjeeling was initially conceived as a health resort and the British came to Darjeeling for the purpose of setting up a sanitarium for their Army people. Dr. Campbell, the first superintendent of Darjeeling, was the man who actually stimulated the growth of tea (albeit on an experimental basis) in the Darjeeling hills in 1841. It is said that he managed to get a few seeds of the Chinese variety and planted them around his bungalow which has now come to be known as Beechwood
Dr. Campbell's experiment yielded results. Tea trees grew very big-some up to 20 ft. Soon it was established that the climate in Darjeeling was greatly suitable for tea production. The government offered land on favourable terms and a number of entrepreneurs came forward to grab the chance.
Then the government designed a formula according to which each allottee of forest land could only clear 40 per cent of the land to plant tea and the rest would remain unadulterated forest. Captain Samler was the first tea planter who started the Alubari tea garden in 1856 under the management of Kurseong and Darjeeling Tea Company. This was followed by the Harsing garden. Dooteriah came into existence in 1859.
The Darjeeling Tea Company launched Ging, Ambootia, Takdah and Phoobsering between 1860 and 1864. Lebong Tea Company also started Tukvar and Badamtam gardens during this period.
Pandam, Stenthal, Makaibari and Singell tea gardens also came into existence around that time. By the end of 1874 there were 113 tea gardens covering an area of 18,888 acres and employing 19,000 workers. By 1905, the number of tea gardens in Darjeeling was 117, covering an area of 42,7000 acres.
At present, there are 69 working gardens over an area of 50,000 acres providing permanent employment to 50,000 workers besides a temporary force of 30,000 workers who are employed during the plucking season. They are also providing livelihood to a large number of people engaged in transport, supplies, repairs and maintenance of hardware and marketing.
There are two different species of tea grown in India . The Chinese species Camellia Sinensis grows up to 20 ft and the Assamese species Camellia Assamica grows up to a height of 30 ft like any other tree.
Tea growing today has assumed different proportions. About 25% of the plantations have been converted into "Organic" meaning that they have totally stopped the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Only natural manure and plant based insecticides are used. The authentic certification for Organic Plantations is given by the Institute For Marketecology, Switzerland , after extensive laboratory tests of the soil and the Tea produced.
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