1. Tea: Geographical Factors
  2. Black vs Green Tea
  3. Factor: break of the bulk (London)
  4. Tea: Darjeeling
  5. Tea: China

In the previous article, we discuss the geographical factors affecting the location of rubber plantation. Now moving to the next topic

Tea Geographical Factors

Labour availablity:

  • Weeding, manure, pruning and plucking= tedious job: need skill+ patience=>cheap female labour force is essential. (recall the same factor for sericulture development in India, China)
  • Since tea has to be grown in hill slopes, mechanization =not possible (like in case of wheat in Canada/corn in US.)
  • Even while drying, rolling, fermentation, grading and packaging of tea, skilled manpower needed.
  • Therefore, tea plantation is done near areas with high population density.
Factors impact
raw material
  • Tea leaves => tea involves considerable weight loss. Hence tea processing is done in the estate/plantation itself.
  • further blending/repacking could be done break of the bulk location (e.g. port cities like London)
  • frost=injures the leaves=>tea not grown beyond Northern China / Honshu
  • very long winter=retards plant growth, decreases yield
Topography doesn’t like stagnant water=> has to be grown on highland or hill slopese.g. hills of Darjiling, Jalpaiguri or Nilgiri

Black vs Green Tea

black tea green tea
  • leave sun dried=>steam rolled =>fermented=>roasted.
  • result=considerable weighloss hence processing done @the estate itself before exporting.
  • leaves heated immediately with steam, not allowed to ferment
  • Result=tannin content is higher, gives a peculiar taste and ‘kick’.
  • Indians and Europeans like black tea
People in far east and Japan like green tea more. They consume it without adding sugar/milk (obviously because this region doesn’t a have well developed dairy industry.)

Factor: break of the bulk (London)

  • Break of the bulk=place where mode of transportation changes e.g. waterway to railways.

The rise of London Tea Biz

  • In the era of Colonization, British controlled Indian and Sri-Lankan tea estates and had a ‘sphere of influence’ in China.
  • Therefore, lot of tea went to London port and from London the large consignments were broken, various blends were mixed and tea was re-exported to other European countries + USA (which was a ‘colony’ of Britain at that time) + local consumption.

The fall of London Tea Biz

  • In world history, we saw that Americans revolted against the tea-tax imposed by Britain= Boston Tea Party, and then American war of independence= Thus tea export to USA declined, product became expensive, Americans shifted to Coffee drinking.
  • Later Both Indian and Sri-Lanka gained independence, Communist rule in China=now tea was exported directly to the recipient country in Europe, rather than via ‘middleman’ London.

Tea: Darjeeling

Capital availablity:

  • Britain had accumulated truckload of wealth from its Asian-African colonies + industrial revolution.
  • By 1830s, monopoly over Chinese tea-trade was lost with the entry of other European players exercising sphere of influence over China.
  • The indigo cropping in Bihar was not giving good returns.
  • Suez Canal opened=distance reduced.
  • All ^these factors led to British “FDI” going in the Indian tea-plantation activity.
Factors effect
Climate morning fog, low temperature=high grade leaf
  • Tista, Rangreej, Mahananda, Balason+ many streams.
  • Gradual melting of Himalayan snow=feeds water to rivers/streams even in dry season.
  • +south-west monsoon provided sufficient water
soil soil has good quantity of phosphorous+potash=>gives special flavor to Darjeeling Tea.
Topography Grown in hills=no stagnant water.
Labour Large estates have residential, school, hospital facilities=>permanent labor force working for generations.
  • Yes, local + foreign demand.
  • Proximity to Kolkata port=good for export.

Tea: China

Mostly grown on Yangtze-Kiang and Sikiang valleys

Factors effect
Climate summer monsoon keeps the temp good for tea
Topography hills
  • grown and used since ancient times= people are skilled @growing tea.
  • Famers grow tea on the nearby hills as secondary crop for additional income, otherwise primary crop is rice.
  • Compared to Indian Estates, Chinese tea Farms are smaller, usually less than 1 acre.
  • Yes local + foreign demand. Yangtze-Kiang leads to Shanghai port. And Location advantages of Shanghai port already discussed in Textile article.
  • Although most Europeans prefer Indian black tea because it is stronger than Chinese variety.

Some passing reference to other countries and factors

country factors
  • mountain slopes
  • red volcanic soil containing a lot of iron
Sri Lanka
  • Cheap labour, good climate, hills
  • British tried coffee, but a blight in 1870s wiped out coffee plantation => shifted to tea.
Indonesia Ocean breeze and cheap supply of female labour

In the next article, we’ll check the geographical factors affecting the location of coffee plantation industry in Brazil and India.