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History of Darjeeling Tea

Lays out the complete history of Darjeeling Tea when the first tea was planted and how tea laborers settled in the so called uninhabited land. There was nothing but dense forest everywhere. Please read on... Tea History Darjeeling

History of Darjeeling Tea


The History of Darjeeling Tea dates back to 1835 through the initiative of the British Governor General, Lord Bentinck. Dr. Campbell, a civil surgeon, was transferred from Kathmandu to Darjeeling in 1839 as the first superintendent of Darjeeling. At this time, there were hardly twenty families living in the entire tract of hills. Dr. Campbell brought China tea seeds from the Kumaon hills of north India in the year 1841. He planted them near his residence in his Beechwood garden in Darjeeling, 2134 meters above sea level. Seeing the success in the plantation of Darjeeling Tea, the government elected to put out Darjeeling Tea nurseries in these areas in the year 1847.

First Plantations in the History of Darjeeling Tea

Following the footsteps of Dr. Campbell came several others, for example Dr. Withcombe, Mr. James Grant of the Civil Service and Capt. Samlar. In 1848, Dr. Hooker planted Darjeeling Tea at Lebong, almost at thousand feet below Darjeeling where the tea plant grew as anticipated and successfully.

Darjeeling Tea HistorySeveral other Darjeeling Tea plantations advanced by the year 1852. Darjeeling perceived its first commercial Darjeeling Tea estates namely Tukvar, Steinthal and Aloobari. These entire tea plantations used seeds procured from the government nurseries. This is how the history of Darjeeling Tea started. The development was rapid by the year 1856 as the experimental stage had successfully passed.

According to the 'Darjeeling Gazetteer' (book focusing on Darjeeling history) Aloobari Tea Garden was opened by the 'Kurseong and Darjeeling Tea Company'. Another on the Lebong spur by the 'Darjeeling Land Mortgage Bank'. For this purpose several hundred hectares of land were cleared starting from an elevation of 750 m to 1800 m above sea level. By 1857, 25 to 30 hectares was planted with tea.

Dr. Borgham started the Dhooteria Tea garden in Darjeeling in 1859. In between 1860 and 1864 this was followed by 4 other Darjeeling Tea gardens at Takdha, Ambootia, Ging and Phoobsering which were established by the 'Darjeeling Tea Company'. The other gardens such as Tukvar and Badamtam tea Estate were started by the Lebong Tea Company. Besides these, there were other tea gardens that begun during this contemporary period. Presently they are known as Makaibari Tea Estates, Pandam Tea Estate and Steinthal Tea Estate.

Contribution of Nepalese Tea workers to the History of Darjeeling Tea

Historic photo of Nepalese Darjeeling women tea pluckers

Dr Campbell’s primary problem was to draw the settlers and the natives to this uninhabited region. During this time, Shri Dakman Rai, a nobleman from Nepal had arrived in Darjeeling. Shri Dakman Rai was requested by Dr.Campbell to assist him by immigrating and bringing workers from Nepal. Acquiescing to this request, Shri Dakman returned to Darjeeling with a thousand immigrants who all belonged to the Gorkha or the Nepalese community. In appreciation of the helpful service rendered, Mr. Rai was given the grant of free-hold lands presently known as Soureni Tea Estate, Samripani and Phuguri Tea Estate.

But this initial lot of tea laborers did not suffice the requisite. One of the Directors of the Darjeeling Tea Company, Mr. Christison, requested Shri Dakman to provide with additional tea laborers from Nepal. Mr. Christison promised him to supply tea seeds so that he could establish his own tea plantation in the lands that was gifted by East India Company through Dr Campbell. This is how Darjeeling Tea history unfolded the tea gardens initiated by Sri Dakman Rai in 1878 at Soureni, in 1880 at Phuguri and in 1883 at Sampripani. After all the preliminary efforts, by this time each and every tea garden had a team of labor recruiters who used to bring laborers from Nepal, Sikkim and the adjoining areas.


Today, Darjeeling Tea is renowned for its flavor and is known as "The Champagne of Teas" or "The Queen of Teas". Darjeeling now has 87 tea gardens. They all have a history of their own. Each derive ethnic names, reminiscent of a romantic past and each gifted with its own scenic character and topography. It is spread over a total area of 19,000 hectares and employs over 52,000 Nepalese people on permanent basis, while a further 15,000 persons are engaged during the tea plucking season which lasts from March to November. More than 60 per cent are Nepalese women employed as Darjeeling Tea pluckers.

History of Darjeeling Tea saw manufacture of Darjeeling Tea mainly in the classic grade variety, mainly comprising of china grade. These china grade varieties are well known for its "muscatel" attribute and what Darjeeling is famous for. Now slowly Darjeeling Tea industry is evolving. Now young clonal varieties or cultivars such as AV2, BB157 etc. are also being used to prepare new artisan teas.

We provide exclusive varieties of Darjeeling Tea if you are interested. We are like Dakman Rai, a tea company run by locals who live and operate from Darjeeling. If you have sometime then we have some specific reasons as to why Thunderbolt Tea is for high grade authentic Darjeeling Teas. Thanks for visiting and your time!

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