Tea Production in the World
Tea is the most popular beverage of the world and it is the national drink of the countries like China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Russia and UK. Coffee is its nearest rival. Tea leaves (unbrewed) contain more than twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans by weight. Therefore, tea is a major source of base product for medicinal caffeine. Tea plant is native to sub-tropical Asia and it is grown widely in both sub-tropical and tropical areas. In tropical areas, however, it is grown on higher elevations. Tea is an evergreen tree which is kept pruned to bush size and it grows best in areas with temperature ranging between 12° and 35° C and receiving a rainfall of more than 250 cm. The rainfall should be distributed throughout the year. Humidity should also be high promoting leaf formation. Stagnant water is highly injurious to the root system of the plant. Tea is sensitive to soil also and it is generally accepted that the special flavours are a result of soil characteristics. The lime rich soil of Darjeeling region is believed to be responsible for the typical flavour of tea grown in that region.
Female workers are engaged for the plucking work at tea estates. The leaves are processed at factories on the estates to produce two types of tea. The tea leaves that are completely processed (i.e. withered, fermented and fired) form black tea. This type of tea forms the bulk of tea entering world trade. The other type of tea is green tea. It is produced when withered leaves undergo steaming or scalding to prevent fermentation. This type of tea is more popular in China and Japan.
Tea plantations vary in size. While most of Indian and Sri Lankan production of tea comes from large plantations (hundreds of acres), most of the production of China and Japan comes from small holders. Asia and Africa account for bulk of the world tea production. India, China and Sri Lanka are the chief producers of tea in Asia. The chief tea-growing region of India lies in the northeastern parts of the country, especially Assam and West Bengal. Another region extends in the Nilgiri Hills in the south.
Tea is a major cash crop of Kenya in Africa. The mountain slopes and other uplands in this country provide conditions suitable for tea plantations.
China also exports large quantities of tea.
Britain and Russia are the chief importers of tea.
India is world’s second largest tea producer after China. In 2007-08, India’s estimated tea production was 8 Lakh metric tons. The following table and chart shows world’s top 10 Tea producers.
Values : Metric Tons, Source : FAO
Total world production was around 32 Lakh tons. India accounts for world’s one fourth of Total tea production.
The story of Tea cultivation in India starts from 1774, when Warren Hastings sent a selection of China seeds to George Bogle, the then British emissary in Bhutan for planting the same in Bhutan. This experiment could not produce any substantial results.
In 1780, Robert Kyd experimented with tea cultivation in India with seeds, the consignment of which was stated to have arrived from China.
Robert Bruce in 1823 discovered tea plants growing wild in Upper Brahmaputra valley.
In May 1838 the first Indian tea from Assam was sent to England for public sale.