Kangra tea – a unique tea from Himachal climes


Origin and History:

In the early 1820s, the British East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam.Originally,tea was not a part of traditional Indian cuisine or beverages. However, with the passage of time, tea has become a daily essential for most Indians. There are several types of tea, which India exports to countries around the globe. There are many tea estates in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. However, the story of Kangra Tea from Himachal Pradesh is very unique.

It was in 1849, that Dr. Jameson chose Kangrain Himachal Pradesh to grow tea, because its favourable environment. Himachal Pradesh, also called as “Dev Bhoomi”, or “Land of Gods” is blessed with a cool climate throughout the year. It was the only area in India, where a Chinese-hybrid tea plantation could grow, namely the Kangra Tea.

Problems faced by the tea industry in HP:

There are two types of Kangra tea, the black tea and the green tea. The British had started growing the black tea on a larger scale than the green tea. However, there was a massive earthquake in Kangra valley in the year 1905.[i] This natural calamity saw the area in ruins and most of the British settlers left the valley in search of greener pastures. Hence, the black tea cultivation reduced considerably. Over a period of time, India became an independent nation and took hold of its internal and external trade. As a result, the green tea plantations saw a new lease of life.

The hilly slopes and river valleys of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand witness frequent landslides and floods, due to global climate change. As a result of which, migration from the valley has increased. The younger generations want secured jobs. There is fragmentation of landholdings due to property issues. They do not wish to continue the ancestral business of their forefathers. Getting new labourhas become difficult. Hence, machines have replaced manual work.

Revival of Tea industry and Tea Tourism

As small landholders cannot manage to grow tea on a large scale, the Government of Himachal Pradesh came up with the novel idea of starting co-operative tea factories. These factories would collect tea from the growers, process, package, market and sell it. Soon, the tea Board of India started training camps for the small, medium and large growers of tea to revive the Kangra tea business. The Government has also encouraged tea-tourism. Kangra tea is grown in and around Dharamshala, Shahpur, Palampur, Baijnath and Jogindernagar. Tourists who visit Himachal Pradesh for their vacations, make a visit to these tea gardens. Schools, colleges and universities plan to take their students on field visits to these tea factories. There the visitors are shown slides and documentary films on the process of tea production. Tea gardens are also rented out for outdoor shooting of films and holding marriage receptions, which bring good income for the owners of tea-gardens.

Kangra Tea & the GI Tag:

In the last few decades, India has seen a steady rise in registrations of Intellectual Property Rights like Geographical Indications (GI) due to increased awareness regarding Intellectual Property laws.A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.[ii]GI tag cannot be applied for by a single individual. The association of persons or producers or any organization or authority collectively engaged in producing the goods should represent the interest of producers and should apply for GI Tag.[iii]

Kangra tea is known for its unique color and flavor. It is different from the Darjeeling tea or Assam tea. While the black Kangra tea has a sweet lingering after taste, the green Kangratea has a delicate woody aroma. The unique characteristics of the tea is attributed to the geographical properties of the region.Now-a-days there is also a new type developed, which is a judicious mix of the black and green teas. Moreover, food bloggers and tea-tasters have spread the word regarding Kangra tea. It can also be had without adding sugar or milk, like a kadha or herbal tea. Hence, it was granted the Geographical Indication tag (for Agricultural product) in 2005 as per Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.[iv][v] It falls under Class 30 of international Classification of Goods for GI.[vi]

Today, India is proud to be a global exporter of Kangra Tea. If you do visit the cool climes of Himalayas, do not forget to sip Kangra Tea!

Author: Adv. Shraddha Pandit

[i] Development of Tea Industry in Himachal Pradesh by Meghna Sood, ISSN No. (Online) : 2249-3255 https://www.researchtrend.net/ijet/pdf/8%20MEGHNA%20SOOD%20836%20Development%20of%20Tea%20Industry%20in%20%20Himachal%20Pradesh.pdf

[ii] Geographical Indications https://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/

[iii] Registration Process of GI https://ipindia.gov.in/the-registration-process-gi.htm

[iv]Kangra Tea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangra_tea

[v] Registered Geographical Indications https://ipindia.gov.in/writereaddata/Portal/Images/pdf/GI_Application_Register_10-09-2019.pdf

[vi] International Classification of Goods https://ipindia.gov.in/writereaddata/images/pdf/classification-of-goods.pdf


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