Tea Plantation

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Tea was originally a Chinese export first traded by the East India Company in 1685 from Canton (up river from Macao) and the trade was in 1750 a more valuable revenue stream than all of India. The trade was lost in 1833, and a year later native tea plants were found growing in Assam. Interest was reignited, the first export of tea from India was 12 tea chests in 1838. The Assam Tea Company took over the East India Company's tea plantations in 1839. By 1860, a million pounds (weight) of tea was being grown in:

Plucking tea

Fibis Resources

  • Tea Planters Cachar 1865-1875 on the FIBIS database, over 200 names listed.
  • FIBIS Journal Number 9, "Jokai Tea Estates" by Dick Barton. Includes a useful reading list.
  • FIBIS Journal Number 24, "Life with Tea in India: The Diaries of Samuel Cleland Davidson" by Wendy Pratt and Peter Bleakley
  • "Life with Tea and India: Diaries of Family Life in the Cachar Area". The first 10 minutes of a talk given by Wendy Pratt (FIBIS Member) and Peter Bleakley at the FIBIS Spring Lecture meeting 22 May 2010 is available to download or listen to on the podcast page. The full version is available for FIBIS members only in the FIBIS Social Network, previously known as the Members Area. Members can also access the accompanying visual presentation which displays impressive original material including photographs and equipment designs.
  • Tea Images Images relating to tea planters and tea production comprising some of the original material mentioned above - examples of which are on this page.


Packing and weighing tea
  • From the end of the 19th century special sections covering tea plantations appear in Thacker's Indian Directories. FIBIS Fact File No 3 - Indian Directories by Richard Morgan states "The tea section lists within each area the names of the firms, their “tea gardens” (areas under cultivation), the trade mark or logo of the company as it was stamped on their tea chests , the postal address, acreage, proprietors, general managers and assistants, Indian agents and addresses, and London Agents and addresses”

An example is given of how a genealogical history can be obtained by using the annual directories in this context.

Some Thackers are available online, refer Directories online-Thacker's Indian Directory

  • Guide to James Finlay & Co Managers and Assistants Letterbooks University of Glasgow. .Finlay Muir & Co as the company became known began to diversify into tea estate management around 1882 and by 1901 was managing extensive tea estates in India and Sri Lanka. These letterbooks contain a wealth of information about the men recruited in Britain to manage the Finlay tea estate business overseas


Bangladesh: Tombs in Tea by John Radford and Susan Farrington, 2001, 96pp.
Covers tea areas in the valleys of Luskerpore, Balisera, Manu/Doloi, Lungla and Juri; also the oldest cemetery in Sylhet town. 45 illustrations, maps and plans.
See BACSA Books.
BACSA have put the indexes to these cemetery books online and these indexes are free to browse. If an indexed name is of interest then application can be made to BACSA for details of the relevant burial inscription - charges apply for this service

Volunteer Regiments

Volunteer Regiments involving tea planters include

Related articles

Historical books

  • The British Library has the following books in its catalogue:
    • Taylor’s Maps of the following Tea Districts, Darjeeling, Terai, Jalpaiguri and Dooars, Darrang, Golaghat, Jorhat Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Cachar, Sylhet, with complete Index to all Tea Gardens, published 1910
    Map of Darjeeling & Terai; Plate 1 British Library Online Gallery (click to enlarge)
    • Tales and Songs from an Assam Tea Garden by Maurice P. Hanley (Calcutta 1928) UIN: BLL0100158619
    • The Trials of a Planter by Oscar Lindgren (Kalimpong 1933) UIN: BLL01002174145
    • Assam Planter: Tea Planting and Hunting in the Assam Jungle by A. R. Ramsden. (London 1945) UIN: BLL01009605678

Historical books online

  • Old times in Assam by T Kinney 1896 Archive.org A tea planter’s life in the early 1860’s. Reprints from columns in the Englishman and Indian Planters’ Gazette.
  • The Experiences of a Planter in the Jungles of Mysore by Robert H Elliot 1871. Volume I Google Books. Volume II HathiTrust Digital Library. Includes Coffee, Chinchona, Cardamon, Tea, Cotton, Silk, Sandal-Wood, Rhea-Grass.
Vol-I (1906-07), Vol-II (1908), Vol-III (1908), Vol- IV (1910), Vol- V (1910)
Vol-VI (1911), Vol- VII (1912), Vol- VIII (1913), Vol-IX (1914), Vol-X (1915)
Vol-XVI (1921), Vol-XX (1925), Vol-XXI (1926), Vol-XXIII (1928), Vol-XXV (1930)
Vol- XXVI (1931), Vol-XXVII (1932), Vol-XXXV (1940)
Some mirror editions available on Archive.org, search title "Planters Chronicle"
Some mirror editions available on Archive.org, search title "Proceedings Of The United Planters Association Of Southern India"
Some mirror editions available on Archive.org, search title "Tea And Coffee Trade Journal"
  • The early history of the tea industry in north-east India by Harold Hart Mann 1918 Archive.org
  • Bengal and Assam, Behar and Orissa : their history, people, commerce and industrial resources by Somerset Playne , J W Bond 1917 at Archive.org lists four tea companies
  • Assam Shikari. A tea planter's story of hunting and high adventure in the jungles of North East India by Frank Nicholls, (born 1889) 1970. Pdf download Pahar-Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset.
  • Forgotten Frontier by Geoffrey Tyson, published 1945, is available as a pdf download, Digital Library of India and is also available on Archive.org. The book is about the escape of refugees from Burma in 1942 and the help provided by the tea planters of Assam in assisting the refugees from North Burma into India.
  • Text from Navvies To The Fourteenth Army by AH Pilcher c 1947 is available as pdf downloads from the Koi Hai website, located under Memories, the Henderson Family Scroll down to the item dated October 12, 2009. Does not contain the illustrations and maps from the original publication. The author was Col: A H Pilcher who at the outbreak of the second world war commanded the Assam Valley Light Horse. In March 1942 he was put in charge of raising a labour force from the Tea Plantations to build the Manipur/Burma Road to evacuate the 14th Army and also the many civilians who were fleeing Burma. Eventually he raised and commanded a labour force of 82000 [1] This book (55 pages) was published in Calcutta for Private Circulation and was illustrated with black and white plates and line drawing maps. [2] The British Library has a catalogue reference Mss Eur F174/1316, but this is possibly a manuscript, not the printed book. The book is available at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Library, University of London.
  • The Children of Kanchenjunga by David Wilson Fletcher. Link to a pdf download PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset. Full title: The Children of Kanchenjunga. On the lives of a tea-planter and his family in the Darjeeling Hills, Published London 1955.
Himalayan Tea Garden by David Wilson Fletcher. Link to a pdf download PAHAR Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset. Full title: Himalayan Tea Garden: A Young Family's Adventures on a Tea Plantation Near Darjeeling. Published New York, 1955.
These two publications are possibly the same book, with different titles. Elsewhere, the author was stated to be a Gurkha officer who ran a tea plantation in Darjeeling in 1953.

Recommended Reading

A Brief History of Tea by Roy Moxham (2009). For Review see Other occupations reading list.

External links


  1. Scroll down to comments section Jungle Work: A Civil Engineer in Burma BBC ww2peopleswar
  2. marelibri.com, page no longer accessible