India is the second largest producer of tea in the world. In India tea growing is concentrated in two widely separated traditional regions in the North East, and South India. In addition, tea is grown in a very limited area in Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) and Dehra Doon (Uttarkhand) in the north. In recent years, tea has also been introduced in some non-traditional states like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim and Orissa.
In North East India, the main regions are the Brahmaputra valley and the Barak Valley in Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai regions in West Bengal and Tripura, which is the single largest tea growing region in the world. The tea areas lie between 24 0and 27 0N latitudes and 880 and 950 E longitudes. In South India, most of the tea is grown in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Nilgiri, Wynaad, high range of Kerala and Travancore are the main tea growing areas in the South.The tea growing areas of South India lie between 80 and 130 N latitudes.
In North East India, tea is grown both in the plains and hills. Mostly Assam type plants are cultivated except in Darjeeling, Terai and the western part of Dooars of West Bengal where China kind of tea plants are grown. In the Brahmaputra valley, tea is grown on both banks of the river on flat land between 50 to 120 m above MSL. In the mountainous district of Darjeeling, tea is grown on mountain slopes at elevation ranging from 600 to 2000 m above MSL. Tea is grown in the Dooars and Terai of West Bengal at an elevation ranging from 80 to 300 m above MSL. In Barak Valley, tea is mostly grown on low hillock (teelas), peculiar to the region, and to some extent on flat land surrounding the teelas and bheels. In South India, tea is grown on the slopes of Western Ghat mountain range and adjoining plateau at elevation ranging from 800 to 2000 m above MSL.
In North East India, traditionally tea is being cultivated in large scale as a mono crop by different tea companies. The tea plantations are called estates. The estates manage the plantations and process tea at their own tea factories. However, from the last three decades, tea has become popular among the common farmers and now tea is also grown by the farmers in small scale. In Assam, there are as many as 1,44,000 such small tea holdings. Normally, they sell the green leaves to the big bought leaf factories and big factories owned by different tea estates. In contrast, in South India only a few tea estates have an area of more than 200 ha and rest are all tiny growers having holdings ranging from one ha to eight ha. Tea is found to grow as a mixed crop in South India. Almost 45 percent of the country’s tea production comes from the small sector.
Both black and green teas are manufactured in India. Black tea constitutes almost 98 percent of the total production and the rest 2 percent is green tea. However, black tea, particularly the CTC (Crush, tear and Curl) has the dominance (90%) over orthodox black tea.