India has the world’s largest area under tea and contributes 28.3 per cent of the world production (1991). Between 1950-51 and 2000-01 there has been 38 per cent (annual 0.76%) and 189.5 per cent (annual 3.79%) increase in the area and production of the crop (Table 11.1). About 77 per cent of area and 74 per cent of production of tea come from Assam and West Bengal
Assam is the largest producer of tea contributing 53.2-jger cent of the total area and 51.43 percent of the total production of the crop in the country (Table 11 .II). In Assam there are two main areas of tea production: (a) the Brahmaputra valley, and (b) the Surma valley.
The Brahmaputra valley extending from Sadiya (in the east) to Goalpara (in the west) is the largest tea producing area of the country (44 per cent of the production). Here maximum concentration of tea cultivation occurs in Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Darrang districts in the Upper Assam. Besides it is also grown in Goalpara, Kamrup and Nagaon districts of Lower Assam. In Assam there are 676 tea estates located on the raised grounds (up to 450 metres) along the northern bank of the Brahmaputra River.
The Surma Valley lies in Cachar district of Assam. It produces about 5 per cent of the total tea production of the country. Here tea gardens are scattered over small mounds (teelas or bheels) along the Surma River and its tributaries.
Assam produces the most pungent tea which is famous for its liquor. Tea plays vital role in the economy of the state contributing about 15 per cent of the state’s total income. Due to rapid expansion of tea cultivation in other parts of the country and old bushes its share has decreased in recent years. West Bengal with 23.6 per cent of the total area and 22.36 per cent of the total production West Bengal is the second largest producer of tea in the country.
Here tea is grown in (a) the Duar, and (b) the Darjeeling Hills. Former is a 16 km. wide strip along the foothills of the Himalayas in Coochbehar and Jalpaiguri districts. The tea estates at the height of 900-1200 m stretch from the Mechi river in the west to Raidak river in the east. The important tea growing areas include Chasla, Mai, Pushkowa, Madarihat, Nagrakata, Jainti Kartick and Kumargram. The Duars contribute about 18 per cent of die total production of tea in the country.
Daijeeling region provides 3 to 5 per cent of the total production of tea in the country. Here tea is grown on the spurs of the ridges, in terraced fields between 90-1980 m of altitude. Daijeeling tea is famous for its aroma and flavour.
Tamil Nadu accounts for 11.70 per cent of the total area and 15.90 per cent of the total production of tea in the country. Nilgiris district is the foremost producer accounting for 45 per cent of the state’s production of tea. Other important producers include Coimbatore, Kanniyakumari, Madurai, Tirunveli and Tiruvannamalai districts. Nilgiris and Wynyard estates produce superior quality of tea which has great demand in Russia and European countries. Here favourable weather conditions help more plucking of leaves and higher productivity.
Kerala is the fourth largest producer of tea country accounting for 8.49 per cent of its total area and 8.45 per cent of its total production. Here important producers include Kottayam, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Kannur districts.
Other minor producers of tea include the states of Tripura, Kamataka (Mysore, Coorg, Shimoga, Hassan and Chikmagalur districts), Himachal Pradesh (Kangra and Mandi districts), Arunachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal (Dehradun, Nainital, Garhwaland Almora districts), Jliarkhand (Ranchi, Hazaribag and Purnea districts), and Maharashtra (Ratnagiri, and Satara districts).