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Assam tea, the finest black tea in the world!
Assam produces 55 percent of the tea produced in India and about 1/6th of the tea produced in the world. The annual turnover of the tea industry is about Rs 1,700 crores and it has earned more than Rs 600 crores as foreign exchange
THE ROBUST flavour of Assam tea is satisfying as a solo tea; when mixed with others, it becomes a full-bodied base for finer breakfast blends and flavoured teas. With or without milk, Assam tea offers an excellent cup of black tea in the world. In the world of special teas – Assam tea is known to be subtle and sophisticated; used without milk... it soothes and stimulates.

Tea is nearly 5,000 years old and was discovered, as legend has it, in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor when some tea leaves accidentally blew into a pot of boiling water. In the 1600s tea became popular throughout Europe and the American colonies. In 1904, iced tea was created at the World’s Fair in St Louis, and in 1908, Thomas Sullivan of New York developed the concept of tea in a bag.

Tea varieties come in three basic types: black, green and oolong.

Of the agriculture-based industries, tea occupies an important place in Assam. The plants used to grow naturally in the Upper Brahmaputra Valley. Robert Bruce, an official of the British Empire, who is credited with the discovery of tea in Assam in 1823, gave publicity to the existence of the plant, the leaves of which were boiled to prepare the tea.
Assam produces the largest quantity of tea and has the largest area under tea cultivation. In 1994, the State had 1012 tea gardens spread over 2,27,120 hectares and produced 4,00,732,000 kgs of tea with an average yield of 1764kg/ha. In Assam tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra and Barak plains. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur are the districts where tea gardens are frequently found. Assam produces 55 percent of the tea produced in India and about 1/6th of the tea produced in the world. The annual turnover of the tea industry is about Rs 1,700 crores and it has earned more than Rs 600 crores as foreign exchange.  Tea industry has contributed substantially to the economy of Assam. About 17 percent of the workers of Assam are engaged in tea industry. Many saw mills, cardboard industries, plywood factories, tin-plate and aluminium foil processing workshops have come up to cater to the demand of the tea gardens.  
Along the river Brahmaputra is situated Dibrugarh, the largest tea exporting town in India. It is also the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh. Dibrugarh is surrounded by tea gardens with misty outlines of Himalayas in the background.
Different regions of India have soils of widely different origin and geological formation. They are lateritic in South India, alluvial in Assam valley, peaty in Cachar and sedimentary in Darjeeling. Although tea can be grown on soil of almost dry type it does best on a medium or light loam. The tea soil in India is generally sufficient in phosphorus and potash but in Palampur area (Himachal Pradesh) the soil is deficient in sulpher, phosphorus and nitrogen. Soils in the Dooars and on the north bank of river Brahmaputra are saturated with calcium and magnesium.

There is relationship between the growth of tea plants and productivity of tea bush with rainfall. Tea can grow in areas having a precipitation of about 1150 mm to 8000 mm. In fact, distribution of rainfall is an important factor in addition to the total annual rainfall. The intensity of rainfall is the rate at which it falls at any time (expressed as mm/hour). Rainfall intensity increases linearly till it reaches the peak after which it decreases slowly. Theoretically, water requirement for tea plants is the amount needed to balance the water loss by transpiration which is a continuous process.
 
Tea plants can grow in tropical to temperature condition under a regime of air temperature that varies between -8 degree centigrade and 35 degree C. The photosynthesis rate of tea plant is the maximum between 30 deg. C to 35 deg.C. It falls rapidly between 37 deg. C to 39 degree Centigrade and in 42 degree Centigrade there is virtually no photosynthesis. The maximum air temperature in North East India remains above 30 degree centigrade for long periods and there is a need for shade to keep the temperature below a level where it cannot affect photosynthesis adversely.

Humidity is of importance in tea physiology primarily because of its influence in determining the loss of moisture by evapo-transpiration. High humidity reduces water loss but low humidity increase it. In North East India the humidity level generally remains high between May to October months and this is generally considered to be conducive for growth.

The need for shade is not uniform because of wide geographic distribution and varied climatic conditions under which tea is grown or because of wide genetic diversity. In India it is essential to provide regulated shade to tea plants where the temperature often exceeds 35 degree centigrade and the relative humidity plunges to 10 percent. Tea plants with semi-erect leaves do not require shade as the leaves are not overheated when exposed. Broad leafed bushes do better under shade.
There are two main methods of tea manufacture. The first is called orthodox type of manufacture and the other is CTC (crushed-torn-curled) type. CTC grades are mostly granulated in appearance while orthodox grades are long particle or whole leaf type. Some factories are also equipped to manufacture Green Tea, though its production is limited.

Since the advent of CTC production in the late 50s, this process has been widely used by most of the tea factories in India. This style of manufacture has the advantage on the finished product being a quick brewer and yielding more cups per kg. In the domestic market, where strong tea liquor is more in demand and more cups per kg is important, this type of manufacture has virtually taken over the entire demand. In the export market, particularly in the West, where tea bags have gained popularity, CTC teas are in demand. In addition, for the tea plantation owner, the cost of manufacture is less due to less waste and less caution needed in plucking. However, the CTC process does diminish the delicate natural flavours of tea. In India today, over 80 percent of tea production is of the CTC type; amounting approximately, to a staggering 650 million kgs.  

The orthodox or traditional type of manufacture has steadily lost favour with traders and consumers because it diffuses slowly, breaks into smaller particles easily whilst being handled for packing and most of all, it brews less cups per kg as compared to CTC. Producers also find it more costly to produce. However, this slow process allows the end produce to retain a majority of the delicate flavours inherent in the plucked green leaf. Therefore, almost all teas produced in high elevation areas such as Darjeeling, Sikkim, Himachal and Tamil Nadu (Nilgiris), continue to be of the orthodox variety, fetching premium prices, thereby justifying production. The orthodox method of manufacture accounts for about 20 percent of the Indian crop, amounting to approximately 160 million kgs.

The statistics branch of the Tea Board designs and develops the Management Information System which provides necessary information related to production, export, prices, labour etc., in respect of the Indian tea industry as well as in the perspective of its international scenario. It provides necessary inputs for the decision-making process of the policy matters of the Board, the Government and the Industry. Matters like central excise, state sales tax, central sales tax, export incentives, export import policy are also examined in the statistics branch. The Tea Board of India maintains records and publishes statistics of all its operations regularly.

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