Dooars derives its flavor from tea. The multi-ethnic composition of Dooars, the variety of its languages and the undulating green carpet landscape which soothes the traveler’s eyes has their roots in Tea. Tea is also the economic backbone of Dooars where the sizeable portion of its population is directly dependent on the industry.
Origins and Growth
Tea was introduced in the Dooars in 1874-75 from the adjoining Darjeeling district where it was first established as a commercial venture in 1856. The first tea garden was established by Dr. Richard Haughton, the pioneer of tea industry in the Jalpaiguri district, at Gazilduba in 1874. The Gazilduba tea estate was owned by Dr. Brougham, who had started the Dhutaria garden in the Darjeeling district in 1859. Mr.Pillans opened the next at Fulbari, after whom the Pillans Hat is named. Bagrakot followed next and was established by Mr. North and owned by Mr. S. Cresswell.
The early decades saw a quantum jump in the number of tea gardens. Within two years from 1874 the number of Tea Gardens rose to 13. By 1881 the number of gardens increased four times and the acreage under cultivation of tea seven times. At the turn of the century Dooars had 235 gardens with 81,338 acres under tea cultivation. This phenomenal increase in the growth of the tea industry brought about an equally phenomenal demographic change- immigration of labor form Chota Nagpur and the Santhal Paraganas. The population of Dooars between 1865 and 1901 increased four times, from 100,111 to 410,606, and three quarter of them were immigrants.
A distinct feature of the Dooars Tea industry was the early emergence of Indian entrepreneurs as Tea garden owners. In 1877(four years from the establishment of first tea garden), Munshi Rahim Baksh, a Bengali Muslim launched the first Indian owned Tea garden, the Jaldhaka tea estate. By 1930 the number of estates owned by Indians went up to 47, representing 37 per cent of the total capital invested in the gardens of the district.
|YEARWISE ESTABLISHMENT OF TEA ESTATES IN DOOARS|
|YEAR||TEA ESTATE||YEAR||TEA ESATE|
|1876||Fulbari||1895||Banarhat (Chapaguri Grant)|
|1876||Gandhabheel||1896||Huldibari (Assam Duars Tea Co.)|
|1877||Ellenbarrie||1896||Palasbari 1st (New Duars)|
|1877||Dam Dim||1896||Hasimara (7 Grants)|
|1878||Kalabari||1896||Birpara (Birpara & Other Grants)|
|1878||Good Hope (Sisubari)||1897||Garganda|
|1879||Soongachi||1897||Bhutan Duars (X)|
|1881||Neora Nuddy (Upper Neora||1898||Lankapara|
|1881||Bytagool||1898||Phaskowa (Kalikhola Grant)|
|1882||Carron (Mujnai Grant)||1899||(4 Grants of McLeods)|
|1884||Chalauni||1900||Rangamatee (Central Duars Tea Co.)|
|1884||Ingo||1900||Rangatee 2nd (?)|
|1884||Nedeem (Needeem Tea Co.Ltd.)||1902||Gandabheel (Fulbari Tea Co.)|
|1884||Alston (Needeem Tea Co.Ltd.)||1902||Dhoala|
|1884||Sylee (,,)||1903||Dalmoni (Needeem)|
|1884||Meenglass||1903||Bhatkhawa (Date of Incorporation of the company 3-9-1900)|
|1884||Bhutta Baree||1904||Emerabad (Assam Duars Tea Co. Ltd.)|
|1885||Chupaguri (Needeem Tea Co.Ltd.)||1910||Turturi|
|1886||Suknabaree (Duars Tea Co. Ltd.)||1911||Damdim|
|1886||Forest Hill (Nedeem)||1913||Radharani|
|1887||Glencoe||1918||(*) Sunny Valley (Joypur)|
|1887||Patharjora||1918||(*) Karala Valley|
|1888||Huldibari (Tallyhe Grant)||1919||Satali|
|1890||Gairkatta (Angrabhasa & Huntpara)||1922||Red Bank|
|1890||Mujnai (Anjuman Co.)||1923||Nangdala|
|1891||Makrapara (Anjuman Co.)||1924||Ethelbari|
|1895||Rangamatee (Imperial Tea Co.)||1933||Neauchapur 1934-1968|
(*) In Baikunthapur area, Sikarpur & Bhandapur gardens were also started.
(x) Not Known if the Estate was started at all.
Production: Bringing the Leaf to your Cup
The reddish or dark brown loam soil which is found in the Dooars region makes it suitable for Tea growing. The tea plant is raised from seed in nurseries in the month of November and December. When these are a year old, the tress are planted out in rows, the distance between them varying from 4feet by 4feet to 6 feet by 6 feet. The plants reach full maturity by the 5th or 6th year depending on the nature of the soil, timely rainfall and adequate labor.
The young plants are pruned from the first year and each successive year they are pruned to get the required size that is about 3 feet high with think bushes branching from the ground.
The plucking season begins in the month of April or occasionally at the end of March if the climate is favorable. Plucking is usually done by women, who are supposed to be quicker and nimble with their hands then men, though employing men in heavy plucking seasons is not ruled out.
Once the leaves reach the factory they are weighed under the supervision of the Manager or one of his assistants and then taken to the Withering house where it is thinly spread upon trays and allowed to lie for a considerable time. Withering is done for about 10 to 12 hours but in moist conditions it might take as much as 48 hours. Fans are employed to facilitate withering. When the leaf has become soft and velvety it is placed on a rolling table to break the cells and bring the sap to the surface to induce fermentation. After fermentation the leaves turns into a bright coppery color. Then the leaf is passed through the firing machine which is a heated chamber of about 250 degrees centigrade. This process eliminates all the moisture and turns the leaf into a coppery black color. Dooars tea is now ready to be sorted and graded into different qualities like Broken Orange Pekoe, Broken Pekoe, Pekoe Souchong and Dust.