Tea production in India dates from the early 19th century. Native tea had been discovered in India in 1820 by the Scottish explorer Robert Bruce, and this type of tea formed the basis for Indian tea plantations.
The first commercial batch of tea was produced in 1839 in Assam. This was the first time that tea had been grown on a commercial scale outside of China.
Assam is one of the three major tea-producing regions of India, along with Darjeeling and Nilgiri. Darjeeling and Assam are both in north-eastern India and Nilgiri is in southern Indian. All three regions have different climates and soil conditions that produce tea of distinct flavors.
Assam tea accounts for 45% of the total Indian tea production. Most Assan tea is grown in the Brahmaputra Valley region – a broad valley with an elevation between 90 and 230 meters above sea level. The terrain of the Brahmaputra Valley is flat and subject to frequent floods but the tea estates are located on slopes which are optimal for water drainage, necessary for ideal tea growing conditions.
The best Assam tea is from the second flush – approximately mid-May to the end of June. Tea production continues until early December, but the quality of the tea steadily decreases through the rest of the growing season.
Darjeeling tea is grown at an elevation of between 1,000 and 2,000 meters in the foothills of the Himalayas. The growing conditions are ideal for tea – the climate is cool and moist, the soil is high quality, and the sloping terrain provides adequate drainage. The best tea is produced in March to April and mid-May to mid-June. The finest Darjeeling tea is highly prized by tea connoisseurs and is known as the “champagne of teas.”
The Nilgiri Mountains (also known as the Blue Mountains) have a cool and moist climate. Tea is grown at elevations of between 1,000 to 2,500 meters. Tea has been grown in the Nilgiris for more than 100 years and is the most important industry of the region.
Nilgiri tea is characterized by its elegant flavor and fragrance. The best Nilgiri tea has excellent body and flavor, quite unique in the world of tea.