Kangra in Himachal Pradesh was once known for its tea. Considered superior than the tea produced in other parts of India, Kangra tea is all but lost on the map.
When one talks of Indian tea, one thinks of Assam, Darjeeling, or Nilgiri more easily than Kangra tea. Kangra tea has a history that is more than 150 years old.
Gagnesh Sharma, Deputy Director, Tea Board of India in Kangra says, “In the mid 1800s, Dr William Jameson, the Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens of the North West province visited Kangra. A feasibility survey was conducted and in 1848, this area was declared suitable for tea plantations. The China Jat variety of Camellia plants was later planted here.”
In 1882-1883, the tea was mentioned in the Kangra district gazette as “Probably superior to that produced in any other part of India. The demand for it has been increasing and much is bought by natives for export via Peshawar to Kabul and Central Asia”.
In 1886 and 1895, the tea received gold and silver medals at International conventions held in London and Amsterdam.
The destruction caused by the earthquake in 1905 forced the British to sell their estates and leave the area. Until the middle of the 20 century, the new owners continued to grow tea. However, only small amounts of tea could be manufactured as few factories were functional.
Over the last 40 years, the Himachal Pradesh State Government and the Tea Board of India have done a lot to bring Kangra Tea back onto the map of Indian tea.
Due to the geographical elements present in the region, the colour, flavour and body of Kangra tea is distinct. The word ‘Kangra Tea’ has, hence been registered as a geographical indicator since 2005 under the Himachal Pradesh Patent Information Centre, Shimla.
Unfortunately, this industry is unable to flourish as the bushes are old as a result of which the yield is low. With intensive research being done on tea at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Agricultural University of Palampur, there is hope that replanting and rejuvenation will take place, and give impetus to this industry.