In 1823, Robert Bruce discovered wild tea plants near Rangpur, Assam-Sibsgasar, and asked a local tribe chief to acquire some of them. However, the deal did not take effect due to Bruce's death; instead, his brother, C.A. Bruce met the leader in 1824 and received tea plants and seeds, which he planted in his garden in Sadiya and also sent some to botanical gardens in Calcutta. Dr. N. Wallich, the then-Superintendent of Botanical Gardens, identified them as members of the Camellia family but separate from Chinese tea.
In 1835, a scientific commission set up by the incumbent governor-general of India, Lord William Bentinck, began working to find indigenous tea plants and advise on the most favorable locations; one of the members, Dr. N. Wallich, favored Assam due to its native wild tea. Thus, from 1836 and onwards, Chinese tea seeds grown in Calcutta's governmental botanical gardens were sent to Upper Assam and other regions. However, one of the Upper Assam sites, Saikhowa, was unable to provide sufficient conditions and many plants died there.
In 1839, the Assam Company was founded by the British Parliament and was the first company to receive a Royal Charter, granted by Queen Victoria. It is also the first company to establish tea gardens and grow premium blends. Today, the company operates rail transport and oil industry branches as well, while also maintaining 12,000 hectares of tea gardens, 16 factories and 19 tea estates, manufacturing 15 million tons of tea annually.
Notes and references
- The Reader's Digest World Atlas, pp. 141–142. ISBN 963-9562-54-8
- "Tea Cultivation", fmltea.com. Retrieved on September 10, 2011.
- "From Tea to Ashram", Sat Tal Christian Ashram. Retrieved on September 10, 2011.
- "Tea Plantation", Assam Company India Limited. Retrieved on September 10, 2011
- "About Us", Assam Company India Limited. Retrieved on September 10, 2011