What is the staple drink of our nation? Chai, Chai, Chai… isn’t it? Almost a fraction of the population of the country is a tea connoisseur specially the Himalayan people. While talking about tea, a special mention to our pahadi folks, as tea is the binge-drink for them.
But how often do we ponder over the origin of this elixir of our lives and specially its nativity in the very pahadi town of Dehradun. The tea-estate culture in Dehradun is primarily unheard-of and an unexplored subject while reciting the history of the town.
Rocking the stores and cafes of the town, tea has been a perfect rescuer of misery and sometimes is an excuse to seek an adventure in the hills of Mussoorie while sipping on to some scorching masala tea for Doonites. So today lets just dig into the past of the town and scrape out the glorious tales of the tea-estate culture in Dehradun.
The Rich History of Tea-Estate in Dehradun
It was During the British Era in 1840 when a tea garden was planted under the management of Dr. Jameson at Saharanpur Garden in Kaulagir near East Dehradun, this farm was spread over 400 acres and had some traits of fertility in it. Looking at which in 1846 the plantation of tea was done in Dehradun tea-estate, the samples of which were sent to brokers in London, who reviewed it and decided that it had somewhat equivalent flavours and crispness as the Chinese tea. However, in 1851 the tea estate land was examined by Mr. R Fortune who knew the science of tea cultivation and production as done in China. He reported all the aspects which lead to an undesirable results in the production of tea in Dehradun. But there was an exceeding demand for tea in India and other Asian countries, looking at this increasing demand and the popularity of the tea from Dehradun, the management decided to commercialise it in the the markets of Central Asia which were then ruled by the China Tea.
In its initial stage the tea cultivation in Dehradun was working at a very slow pace. Till 1847 the cultivation was done only on 8 acres of land. The result of this cultivation was not so encouraging for the people to move towards tea cultivation. Although from the year 1853-54, a large amount was invested in the experimentation of the Dehradun tea-estate. The results of these experiments were devastating as the cultivators were alien to the right knowledge and procedure of tea cultivation. Still the cultivation continued, infact on a wider scale.
In 1857 Dr. Jameson examined that an area of 1,00,000 acres of land in Dehradun was suitable for tea cultivation with 100 pounds of tea being cultivated on every acre. Till 1863-64 the cultivation was done on 1,700 acres, which had tea-estate, in 1872 this number increased to 2000 acres with an amount of 2,07,828 pounds of tea production. This increased growth in tea cultivation faded away the murky clouds off of the Dehradun tea-estate. In 1867 when the tea estate culture was completely set up it was sold to the King of Nahan for 20,000 pounds. In 1878 Dehradun tea-estate started doing exceedingly well.
Instead of an unimaginable success the tea-estate culture of Dehradun got doomed to the increasing climate change and the undesirable conditions which were and obstacle in the cultivation of tea in Dehradun. This has lead to a decrease in the number of tea production in Dehradun and thereby the tea-estate culture has now faced a lot of degradation.
Current Plight of Tea-Estates in Dehradun
With the city getting commercialised at an exceeding pace, Dehradun was listed one amongst the smart city program as laid down by the government in 2015. Dehradun fell prey of the smart city program. This program promised a town with cutting-edge urban planning, smart infrastructure and systems running on the latest information technologies but in case of Dehradun this came at the cost of scrapping out the historical tea-estates of Doon.
The government planned to urbanise the town on the lands of the Dehradun Tea-Estate which fall in the upper catchment area of the Asan river and are home to over 30,000 trees, these tea gardens were introduced by the Britishers in the 1800’s and have survived despite commercialisation and rapid climate change in the city. Some tea gardens in Dehradun have been 170 years old and have been providing livelihood to a number of generations. If ambushed it may lead to a number of repercussions on the climate of Doon.
While there were times when almost one-fourth of Dehradun outskirts were covered with these tea gardens now most of them have been degraded. Tea estates such as Arcadia Grant, East Hopetown, Gudiyabagh and Herbutpur are still operational, though some of the tea pockets like Sirmour, Banjarawala and Kargi had fragmented due to infrastructure development.
Dehradun Organic Green Tea
Dehradun is well known for its 100% organic green tea along with its originality and it is Chinese breed. While the estates in West Bengal and Assam now prefer cloned tea for increased production. Doon has never compromised with its indigenous tea. It is supplied to Amritsar, the sole and biggest centre of green tea in the country. From there it is exported to Pakistan and Afghanistan, in addition to markets in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and other areas.
So before we get struck down by the harshness of city lights we all need to understand the fact that Doon is a fragile and beautiful valley which won’t be capable of holding the concrete walls after a certain extent. Protect it and Preserve it in every Possible way.