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  • Writer's pictureTea Para Ti

What Are the Top Tea Producing States in India?

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

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On the surface, India is well-known for many things the world loves: excellent food, spices, beautiful textiles, Bollywood, and — you guessed it — tea! The country's tea history stretches back centuries, and although complicated, has eventually led the country to be the number two tea producing country the world (right behind China). And, with 80% of the tea consumed within the country, Indians love their tea as much as people from other parts of the world.

In fact, if you're a tea lover, chances are you have some Indian teas sitting in your tea cupboard right now! But, India's a big country. So, where are India's tea regions?

Whether you're on a tea hunt in India or just curious, there are several states and special regions known for exceptional tea production in the country. Both the micro-climates and geographical positioning of these states have played a major role in the unique characteristics and flavors of the tea produced there.

In this comprehensive guide, we will not only explore the top tea-producing states in India — a country with 28 states and well over a billion people living (and, drinking tea) in them — but also delve into the nuances of each region's tea offerings.

A Brief History of Tea Production in India

Two men standing outside of a tea stall in India

Tea production in India has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 19th century, during the British colonial period. While the British played a significant role in the development and expansion of India's tea industry, keep in mind that the Empire would not have been what it was in part without the discovery — and subsequent exploitation — of India's tea. Therefore, before you can appreciate what different tea regions in India have to offer, it's important to understand — and be sensitive to — its history:

The British East India Company and India's Tea Potential

The British East India Company — established several years before tea went mainstream in the early 17th century — initially focused on trading spices and other goods from India. However, it was during the 19th century that the British began to recognize the potential of India as a tea-producing region.

One of the key figures in the development of India's tea industry was Robert Bruce. In the early 19th century, Bruce "discovered" wild tea plants — mainly Camellia sinensis var. assamica — in the Assam region of northeastern India. This discovery led to the establishment of tea plantations in Assam, which later became one of the largest tea-producing states in the country and still to this today.

British Colonial Rule and Tea Cultivation

While the British played a significant role in the growth of India's tea industry, it is important to acknowledge the negative consequences of colonial rule. The cultivation of tea required large tracts of land, often leading to the forced removal of indigenous communities from their land. Additionally, the British implemented exploitative labor practices, including indentured servitude and harsh working conditions for tea plantation workers.

Over time, tea cultivation in India expanded from Assam to other states, driven by the growing demand for Indian tea in both domestic and international markets. Today, India is known for its diverse tea regions, each offering a unique range of flavors and characteristics.

The Top 8 Tea Producing States in India

In general, tea grows best in regions with a subtropical climate. It thrives in areas with moderate temperatures, ample rainfall, and high humidity, which makes India the perfect place for tea to thrive. That being said, while many people may think of India being simply a hot place, it's important to remember that the country actually has a vast and diverse landscape which provides ideal conditions for growing different types of tea in certain regions more so than others.

So, teas are grown in which states in India?

From the rolling hills of Darjeeling, West Bengal to the fertile plains of Assam, to the high altitude in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, each tea-producing state in India benefits from unique climatic factors and geographical features that contribute to the cultivation of high-quality teas.

Let's dive in!

1. Assam — The Birthplace of Indian Tea

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "Assam, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

First and foremost, we have to mention Assam, where tea in India started. Assam is a sprawling state located in northeastern India — bordered by Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Bhutan — and is known for producing robust and full-bodied teas. This is all thanks to its fertile plains and tropical climate, which ultimately breeds rainfall and rich soil.

This means that the state of Assam offers ideal conditions for tea cultivation. Today, the tea gardens of Assam produce large quantities of tea, making it the largest tea-producing region in India and as significant as it was when tea was first cultivated here by the British.

Teas from Assam are renowned for their strong, malty flavor and bright reddish-brown liquor. They are often favored for breakfast blends and are widely used in masala chai — which if you've ever been to India, you'll know this "spicy" black tea is served at most restaurants and street vendors and is the most popular tea consumed in India.

Did you know? The Monabarie Tea Estate at Biswanath District of Assam is the largest in Asia?

2. West Bengal — Home to Darjeeling Tea

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "West Bengal, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

You may have heard of Darjeeling tea, but did you know that's also the name of the region it comes from? No coincidence here!

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Darjeeling region in West Bengal is celebrated for its exquisite teas. Known as the "Champagne of Teas," Darjeeling tea holds a unique position in the world of tea connoisseurs.

If you haven't tried it yet, Darjeeling tea is a light and delicate tea known for its floral aroma and amber liquor. Because the tea is so special, the state of Darjeeling follows stringent regulations to protect the authenticity and quality of Darjeeling tea, which is internationally recognized and protected under Geographical Indication (GI) status.

And, aside from Darjeeling, West Bengal is known for its tea gardens in regions such as Dooars and Terai.

3. Meghalaya — The Up-and-Coming Tea State

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying , "Meghalaya, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

Located in the northeastern part of India, Meghalaya is an emerging tea-producing state that is garnering attention for its distinct teas. The region's unique micro-climatic conditions coupled with its high altitude which contribute to the production of teas with a flavorful character, including black teas, white teas, green teas, and oolong teas.

If you travel here, you'll find that Meghalaya's tea plantations are located amidst lush green landscapes and mist-covered hills, creating an enchanting atmosphere for tea cultivation. We've got our eyes on you, Meghalaya!

4. Sikkim — 100% Organic Teas

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "Sikkim, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

There are many objectively beautiful places in India, but Sikkim is definitely "up" there. Located in the northeastern part of the country — snuggled between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan — the high altitude plays a role in it being a perfect place to grow tea.

Sikkim's commitment to organic farming practices sets it apart in the world not just in tea production, but in general. In fact, Sikkim has been declared an organic state since 2016. This has made Sikkim teas highly sought after by health-conscious tea drinkers, because they're 100% organic — cultivated from the region's pure air, pristine soil, and favorable climatic conditions.

If you're in Sikkim, visit Sikkim Temi Tea to learn more!

5. Himachal Pradesh — The Kangra Region

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "Himachal Pradesh, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

Next on our list is the tea producing state of Himachal Pradesh, where its Kangra region has a long-standing history of tea cultivation. In fact, the north India contributes to over 80% of the country's tea production, according to IBEF. This scenic region benefits from its elevation, cool climate, and abundant rainfall, which — as you probably know by now — creates an idyllic environment for growing tea.

Kangra teas are known for their distinct flavors, often compared to the teas of Darjeeling but a little lighter. The black teas produced here, for instance, have a distinct muscatel character with a subtle fruity undertones and lingering after-taste. Though the region produces several tea types including green tea, the majority of production is focused on black teas.

If you visit Himachal Pradesh, here in Kangra there are nearly 6,000 tea gardens you can visit. One well-known destination is the family-owned Dharmsala Tea Company. where you can try a variety of Himalayan teas.

6. Uttarakhand — Home to Berigand Tea

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "Uttarakhand, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

Uttarakhand — another state in the Himalayas — produces black, green, and white teas with distinct flavors and delicate profiles. However, the region is known for its prized Berinag tea, a unique black tea variety.

According to Berinag Tea, this special tea type was once made from the leaves of a wild plant which could be found growing in many localities throughout the Himalayas. But, now, it's only grown Berinag & Chaukori, which is the district of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand.

Berigand tea undergoes a meticulous processing method a bit unique from other tea-producing methods. Thie result is a rich, full-bodied flavor with floral and earthy notes, thanks to ideal growing conditions. Once upon a time, it was a very popular tea in London teahouses and throughout the West. Of course, it's still quite popular today.

Another tea garden worth visiting in Uttarakhand is the Kausani Tea Estate. Known for organic cultivation, offers visitors a chance to explore lush tea gardens and savor freshly brewed tea while taking in some of the regions incredible vistas. Sign us up!

7. Tamil Nadu: Home to Nilgiri Teas

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying  "Tamil Nadu, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

Moving to the southern part of India now — where the overall climate is a bit different the up north, but still contributes to 17% of the country's tea producing — is the tea producing state of Tamil Nadu. Here, most of the tea production comes from the Nilgiri tea region, which is situated among the mist-covered Western Ghats. The climate here is cool and moist, which similar to the other tea producing regions in India, is also very suitable for production.

Nilgiri teas are renowned for their fragrant and brisk nature, with a smooth and mellow profile. While black teas dominate, the region is gaining recognition for its green and oolong teas as well.

While here, check out the tea stalls in Coimbatore and Kanyakumari. The tea stalls are bustling social hubs where locals and visitors gather for a cup. These charming establishments serve a variety of teas, from classic masala chai to invigorating ginger tea (Adrak Chai), often enjoyed in small glass tumblers or clay cups. Grab some sweet snacks to go along with the tea, too!

8. Kerala: The Munnar Region

A graphic of a map of India, with the title text saying "Kerala, India" as one of the top tea producing states in India

Last but not least — just west of Tamil Nadu — is Kerala. home to the Munnar region. Munnar is known for producing traditional black teaas well as unique specialty blends. Additionally, Kerala offers a range of refreshing and flavorful green teas, along with specialty teas infused with local spices, herbs, and fruits.

Kerala's tea estates — including the renowned Lockhart Tea Factory and Kolukkumalai Tea Estate — each contribute to the region's rich tea heritage. Both are super interesting and beautiful destinations to learn about the tea produced in Kerala.

The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, for example, is situated at an impressive altitude of approximately 8,000 feet making it supposedly the highest tea estate in the world. Like others on this list, the cool climate and pristine air of the region here contribute to the exceptional quality of the tea produced there.

The Significance of Tea Producing States in India

A man pouring tea into several glasses from a kettle inside a dark kitchen in one of the tea regions in India

India's tea producing states — with their celebrated tea cultivating regions influenced by unique geography and climate — play a vital role in the country's economy and culture, a legacy dating back to the British colonial era. From the robust and malty teas of Assam to the exquisite and delicate teas of Darjeeling, each region has its own unique charm that make them worth a visit. (But, you'll be traveling for quite a long time!)

Today, the Indian tea industry continues to thrive. Tea contributes significantly to the country's GDP, making up 10% of India's total exports — which go to more than 25 countries around the world, according to IBEF.

Ultimately, exploring these tea producing states in India is not only a treat for the taste buds but also a cultural and sensory experience for those who get to experience it. But, if you're not able to get to them any time soon, you can opt to brew up a cup of Indian tea right at home!

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