China was the global tea exporter until the middle of the XIX century, because nowhere (except Japan) it was not grown and produced. However, the Qing court strengthened the isolationist policy, preventing the free tea trade in the coastal towns. It forced the British to develop the tea production in Ceylon and its Indian colonies. The first English plantations were set up in Chabua, Upper Assam in 1835. The warm, humid climate and fertile soil let the Fujian tea seeds grow and gave birth to the manufacturing tea growing. The tea gardens were set up in Darjeeling district in West Bengal (north-east India, located on the border with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan) in 1856. By 1874 there were 113 Darjeeling tea plantations of about 6,000 hectares. And by 1887 the Indian tea production volume exceeded the purchase of Chinese tea.
The name Darjeeling comes from the Tibetan word “dorje”, “unbreakable steadiness” and “ling”, “place”. The best Indian tea is grown in the area around the Darjeeling city at the altitude of 1500-2000 meters. Darjeeling produces about 10 000 tons of tea annually, that grown and harvested in the 87 tea plantations with total area of 19,000 hectares. Each plantation has its own history, and the tea has its special characteristics.
However, the much of Indian tea is produced in Assam, located in the north-east of India, in the Brahmaputra river valley. Tea production is the main branch of the local agriculture. According to the respected experts, the best tea is produced in Upper Assam, Middle Assam produces teas of average quality, and Lower Assam produces low quality tea. Assamiсa tea has bright, rich taste and a licorice tone in the bouquet.
Nilgiri means "Blue Mountains". It is the name of another tea region in the south of India, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states. Tea plantations are located at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level and covers 25,000 hectares. Nilgiri produces about 62,000 tons of tea per year here.
Sikkim is a state in north-east India, it is the youngest tea region. The plantations were set up here in 1969 by the initiative of the local authorities. Sikkim Tea is high quality tea and prized by connoisseurs on a par with a fine Darjeeling.
Tea is made three times a year in India. The first harvest is made in March-April. Spring tea has the most delicate flavor and aroma. The second harvest is made in May and June. This tea has nutmeg notes in the bouquet. Autumn picking runs from the end of September until mid-November. The autumn tea has an astringent and "hot" taste.
Indian tea is divided into the categories set by the British in the XIX century:
1. Whole leaf:
SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) - whole leaf tea of the highest category with tips. Tea has a mild, sweet taste.
FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) – high quality whole leaf tea with tips.
TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) – whole leaf tea with a bit of tips.
2. Broken leaf:
FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe) is a tea made from broken leaves and the 1 category tips.
TGBOP (Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe) is a tea made from broken leaves and tips.
FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe) is a tea made from broken leaves. There are also some small twisted leaves.
BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe is tea made from broken leaves. The raw material is plucked on the plantations located in the plains.
3. Chopped leaf.
GFOF (Golden Flowery Orange Fannings) is a tea from small chopped leaves.
GOF (Golden Orange Fannings) is black tea with chopped leaves. Tea leaves are smaller than in the GFOF category
4. Tea made from low-grade raw materials.
D (Dust) is powdered tea that used to fill tea bags.
Indian tea production technology includes five basic steps: picking, withering, twisting / fermentation, drying, sorting / packing.
The picking begins early in the morning. The picked leaves are delivered to the tea factory. The leaves are weighed and set out for withering, which, depending on humidity and the season lasts from 2 to 20 hours. Dried tea leaves lost up to 50% moisture, then they are machinery rolled and left for fermentation in the ventilated room for 2-4 hours. At the final stage the tea leaves are roasted (also by machine) and sorted.