J. Forbes (John Forbes) Royle.

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nounced that " the tea shrub is beyond all doubt
indigenous in Upper Assam, being found there,
through an extent of country of one month's
march within the Honourable Company's terri-
tories, from Suddiya and Beesa to the Chinese
frontier province of Yunnan, where the shrub is
cultivated for the sake of its leaf."
Assam Tea So far back, howcvcr, as 1826, the zealous and

toRiiND. ingenious Mr. D. Scott sent from Munnipore, to
Mr. G. Swinton, then chief secretary to the India
Government, specimens of the leaves of a shrub
discovered by which he insisted was a real tea. These we find
Mr. race. ^^qyc fiist discoveicd by Mr. Bruce, wlio was tlien
in command at Suddiya. Me sent tea s-eeds and
plants to Mr. Scott, having been previously in-


formed of their existence by his brother, the late Existence of

. . Tea in Assam

Major Bruce; and he subsequently, in 1833, known to Ma-
jor Bruce,
brought it to the notice of Capt. Jenkins. — (Tea

Cultivation in India, p. 91.)

The history of this discovery is instructive, as Remarks ou

discovery of

showinghow long facts of the most important na- TeaandCaout-

. . cbouc in As-

ture often remain unnoticed, even among those sam.
most interested in the information. If the evidence
were not so conclusive, it would hardly be cre-
dited as occurring with a commercial people like
the English, that Tea and Caoutchouc, should
both have so long remained neglected after having
been discovered in British India. Nor was there
any thing very remarkable in the tea plant being
found in Upper Assam ; as it is mentioned by
some authors as indigenous in the mountains
which separate Burma from China.

In consequence of this important discovery, a a scientific de-

. - *. putation sent

scientific deputation was, at the recommendation to upper a*.
of the Tea Committee, sent by the Indian Govern-
ment, for the investigation of Upper Assam, and
for the collecting on the spot the greatest variety of
botanical, geological, and other details ; as such
preliminary information was absolutely necessary
before ulterior measures could be successfully
taken with regard to the cultivation of the tea
shrub of that country. Seldom has a deputation
been better qualified for the task it had to per-
form, as Dr. Wallich was aided by Mr. Griffith,
already distinguished as a Botanist, and by Mr
M*Clelland, who had paid great attention to, and



Descriptio n of
the Tea and its
sites in Upper
Assam by Dr,

Scientific depu- published a work on, the Geology of Kemaon.

Assam. They were met and accompanied in their visit

to the tea localities by Mr. Bruce, who was sub-
sequently appointed Superintendent of the Tea
Plantations in Assam.

Descriptions have been published by these
gentlemen of the several tea tracts which they had
at that time an opportunity of examining. These,
according to Dr. WaUich, were five in number, —
Koojo and Niggroo, among the Singpho, Nud-
dooa (Noadwar) and Tengrae, in the Muttuck
country, and Gubroo, at the foot of the Na-
ga Hills, in the territories of Rajah Purundur
Singh. The last, Dr. Wallich supposes, is con-
nected with others to the southward, and with
the tea plant originally announced as existing in
Munnipore, and this, he says, may have origi-
nated from the plant at Hookum, and that all may
have *' originally travelled from the frontiers of
China," where we know that a kind of tea is cul-
tivated in the province of Yunan. Dr. Wallich
describes the boundary of these tea tracts as very
irregular, and their surface as much undulated ;
the plants as generally overwhelmed by a thick
jungle of shrubs, climbers, &c., and amongst
them numerous bamboos, with large trees over-
topping the whole. The tea plants, he says,
are remarkably healthy and vigorous, and of all
ages, between quite young seedlings and tall
shrubs of twelve, sixteen, to twenty feet m height,
with stems mostly under an inch iu diameter,

Supposes it
has travelled
from China.


and in no instance reachinsr beyond two inches. Description of

, ^ ,, Assam Tea

When seen in February, almost all the full grown plants by Dr.
plants had abundance of seed-buds ; a few had
still some flowers on them. The older foliage was
large, and of a fine dark-green colour.

It was observed that where the forest trees had
been felled, the tea plants, by exposure to a
sudden excess of light and heat, had the colour ESfectsof


of their leaves changed from a dark, to a pale,
somewhat yellowish green colour. In many in-
stances, where tea plants had been cut down, Ti^^/^J"*
vigorous and frequent shoots were observed at
the base and top of the stumps that had been left

Dr. Wallich's

standing on the ground. Dr. Wallich concluded, opinion that
that though the Assam forests hold out the fairest uon and coid
prospects of being " made to yield a very valuable Si^wg^
supply of good and potable tea," yet he suspects ^^'^ ^'
that " we shall have to ascend much higher eleva-
tions than those where the tea has been hitherto
seen in Assam, to meet with localities subject to
a decided winter of six weeks or two months'
duration, before we can expect to find the more
valued and superior sorts of teas, and that it is to
such localities that we must chiefly direct our at-
tention in the establishment of our new plan-
tations." — (Papers, Tea Culture in India, pp. 58

and 67.) Reports by

Mr. Bruce, in his communication 1st October
1836, describes the tea tracts as consisting of
little mounds or hillocks of earth, on which large
trees had grown, whose roots alone appeared
to save them from being washed away. One

Mr. Bruce.



Report by
Mr. Bruce on
Tea of Upper
fondness for
water ;

effects of ex-
posure and
cutting down.


Report of Tea

thing he observes as worthy of notice, that all the
Assam tea grows near water, of which it appears
to be very fond, for wherever there is a small
stream or jheel, tea is sm'e to be there. He de-
scribes also the results of cutting down the tea
plant with the other trees of the forest, when the
ground was cleared from weeds and hoed in
January for the purpose of sowing rice in Febru-
ary. This came up, ripened, and was cut down ;
after which, the tea sprung up, and displayed
numerous young leaves in March, which had
rather a yellowish appearance ; but in October
the plants had grown from three to ten feet high,
and the leaves were of a fine healthy green.
Those tea plants which had only been cut down
to about four feet from the ground had abundant
shoots springing up a little below the part that
had been cut, and some of them were full of
flower-buds. All those that had been cut on a
level with the ground threw out more shoots and
leaves than those that had been allowed to remain
four feet high. This experiment, though acci-
dental, and to a small extent, Mr. B. concludes,
was " quite sufficient to show us that the experi-
ments so long desired (to know whether these
trees would grow in the sun or not) have been
crowned with the greatest success."

The Tea Committee report to the Government
in January 1837, that " the plant is now found
to be much more generally diffused over the
Muttuck country than he (Mr. Bruce) had sup-
posed, seven new spots having been brought to


Mr. Briice's notice during his last trip ; and fur- Mr. Brace's

.1 1 •! i/'ii iT-11 reports on Tea

tner observation has served fully to establish the plant of as-

expediency of clearing away the jungle, and

cutting down the tea trees close to the ground,

in order to improve the quality of the foliage.

From the new shoots of plants that had been

thus treated, Mr. Bruce has prepared five boxes Tea prepared,

, * and sent to

of tea, a sample of which he has forwarded to Calcutta.
Capt. Jenkins, for despatch to Calcutta." — (Pa-
pers, Tea Cultivation, p. 85.)

Mr. Bruce, in his latest account, published in Tea plant

. , T A • • o • • found on the

August 1839, in the Journ. Asiatic society, gives hiiis in Assam ;
an account of the further discovery of tea tracts,
which then amounted to no less than " one hun-
dred and twenty, some of them very extensive,
both on the hills, and in the plains." The hills
on which tea has been found by Mr. Bruce are
the Naga Hills, and those of Gubroo and Tipum.
" The flowers of the tea on these hills (Gubroo)
are of a pleasant, delicate fragrance, unlike the
smell of our other tea plants ; but the leaves and
fruit appear the same." The tea was described to
Mr. B. as having been brought from Munkum to
the Tipum Hills, and that the plant was cut down
every third year to get the young leaves. On a account of.
hill, three hundred feet high behind Jaipore, a tea
tract two or three miles in length was found : the
trees were in most parts as thick as they could
grow, and the tea seeds (smaller than what Mr.
Bruce had seen before), fine and fresh, literally
covered the ground. This was in the middle of


Mr. Brace's November, and the trees had abundance of fruit

reports on Tea i y-^, /• i i

plant of Assam and flower on them. One of the largest trees he
found to be two cubits in circumference, and full
forty cubits in height. The Namsong tract, on the
Naga Hills, Mr. B. describes as the largest that
has yet been seen, and its extent as not having
been yet ascertained. — (Report, p. 8.)

Productive- " With Tcspcct to the tea plant being most pro-

low grounds, ductivc ou high or low ground, I cannot well
say, as all our tracts are on the plains ; but from
what little I have seen of the hill tracts, I should
suppose they were not more productive. In
China, the hill tracts produce the best teas, and
they may do the same here." With regard to the
tracts in the plains, Mr. Bruce believes they are
equally productive, " although if I leaned towards
any side with my limited experience, I should
say that the low land, such as at Kahung, which
is not so low as ever to be inundated by the
strongest rise in the river, is the best. The plants
seem to love and court moisture, not from stag-
nant pools, but running streams. "

Effects of Sun Mr. Brucc further observes, that " the sun has

on Tea plants. i •, c i

a material effect on the leaves ; for as soon as the
trees that shade the plants are removed, the leaf,
from a fine deep green, begins to turn into a yel-
lowish colour, which it retains for some months,
and then again gradually changes to a healthy
green, but now becomes thicker, and the plant
throws out far more numerous leaves th^n when
in the shade. The more the leaves are plucked,


the srreater niimljer of them are produced : if the Eflfects on the

^ Tea plant of

leaves of the first crop were not gathered, you plucking its

might look in vain for the leaves of the second

crop. The tea made from the leaves in the shade of shade and of

r sun;

is not near so good as that from leaves exposed to
the sun. These also are much earlier in season,
and give out a less watery liquid when rolled.
When the leaves of either are rolled on a sunny
day, they emit less of this liquid than on a rainy
day. This juice decreases as the season advances.
The plants in the sun have flowers and fruit
much earlier than those in the shade, and are far
more numerous ; they have flowers and seeds in
July, and fruit in November. The rain also ^eatly of rain-
affects the leaves, for some sorts of tea cannot be
made on a rainy day. The Chinese dislike ga-
thering leaves on a rainy day for any description
of tea, and never will do so, unless necessity re-
quires it. Some pretend to distinguish the teas Teas made on

* * "^ ^ rainy days in-

made on a rainy and on a sunny day, much in the fenor.
same manner as they can distinguish the shady
from the sunny teas — by their inferiority. The
season for making tea in Assam generally com- seasons for

. making Teas in

mences about the middle of March ; the second Assam.
crop in the middle of May ; the third crop about
the 1st of July; but the time varies according to
the rains setting in, sooner or later." — (Report
of 1839, pp. 10 and 11.)

In both the reports which Mr. B. has published
valuable details are given respecting the modes
of preparation of the different kinds of tea; many


Mr. Bruce on of tliem are dependent on the a^e of the tea

the manufac

tureofXeas. leavcs, others on the mode of preparation. He
says, that " the leaves of the green tea are not
plucked the same as the black, although the tree
or plant is one and the same, which has been
proved beyond a shadow of doubt ; for I am now

Black and plucking leavcs for both green and black from

green Teas

from the same the samc tract and from the same plants ; the
difference lies in the manufacture, and nothing
else." It may be so; but a question which has
been so long disputed at Canton, is not likely to
be satisfactorily settled, and at once, in Assam.
As the question will always occur to every one
acquainted with the history of the subject, is this

Tea oTthe^^" ^^^ modc of making the real high-flavoured green

substitute? ^g^, or is it that of preparing the substitute which
Mr. Reeves describes (p. 264) as yearly made in
large quantities in the province of Canton, and in
the manufacture of which the people there are
such proficients?

Coloured by Mr. Brucc briefly states, that " in the latter

indigo and sul- /. i • r ^ t o

phateofiimc. part of the proccss a mixture of sulphate of
lime and indigo, very finely pulverized, and sifted
through fine muslin, in the proportion of three
of the former to one of the latter, is added to a
pan of tea, containing about seven pounds ; about
half a tea spoonful of this mixture is put, and
rubbed and rolled along with the tea in the pan
about one hour." This is not added for the pur-
pose of improving " the flavour of the tea, but
merely to give it a uniform colour and appear-


ance, as without it some of the tea would belisfht Theprcpara-

^ tion of Greeu

and some dark." Tea consi-


It does not seem reconcilable with our know-
ledge of the effects of heat, that increased ex-
posure to high temperature should elicit finer fla-
vour, and more stimulant properties, which we
know to be characteristic of green tea. But this
would be of no weight in opposition to positive
testimony from China. Mr. Bruce's is decisive re- n Green Tea
specting the mode of manufacturing it in Assam, ^^di*v/may^"
and seems to be corroborated by reports from In- ^emiStesS
dia respecting the good quality of the green tea
which has been prepared there. In the absence of
trustworthy testimony from the green tea district
of China, it will propably be possible by means
of chemical tests, to detect the difference between
the best green tea of China, and that of Assam,
if they should be differently prepared. Mr. Reeves*
opinion is so positive respecting the substitute pre-
pared at Canton ; tlie leaves of the best green and
black teas of commerce are so different from each Probabilities
other; each so like the plant known by its name Screen Tea
in this country, and the green is so much more samfpiam.
hardy than the black tea plant, that we cannot
consider the question decided, and must wait for
more positive information than we have yet had,
from the green tea district of China.

Mr. M'Clelland has furnished a very valuable Mr.M'Cieiiand
report on the geological features and the climate &c. of Assam.'
of Assam, as well as minute observations on
the chemical analysis of the soils, in which the




Geology of.

Kassia —

Mountains on
the north and
south of Assanii

Breadth of the
valley of As-

Upper Assam
an alluvial

structure of,

tea plant was found in a flourishing condition, in
the five tracts or patches which were visited by
the deputation. In ascending the Kassia moun-
tains, he found, at an elevation of one thousand
five hundred feet, the well marked remains of a
raised beach, characterized by a deposit of marine
tertiary shells. The valley of Assam, he repre-
sents, is interposed between two distinct systems
of mountains. Porphyry, Primitive Limestone,
Serpentine, Granite, and Talcose slates, com-
pose the mountains on the northern side of the
valley,while Tertiary sandstones. Shell limestones,
and Coal, in conjunction with Metamorphosed
Gneiss, Green stone, and Syenite, compose the
southern group. The valley contracts towards
its outlet, to a breadth of only twenty miles in
Lower Assam; but is extended to a breadth of
fifty miles in Upper Assam, where it forms an ex-
tensive alluvial plain, about eighty miles in length,
elevated about 650 feet, surrounded by lofty
mountains, and watered by four enormous rivers,
beside six or seven smaller ones, the least of which
is as large as the greatest river in England .

With respect to the formation of Upper As-
sam, Mr. M'Clelland observes, that the lowest
deposit is a reddish yellow clay, which lies in
contact with the rocky masses in Lower Assam,
forming the surface of that part of the country.
A short distance above Bishnath, this clay dips
beneath the alluvial deposits. These, succeed
each other in the following order from below


upwards ; first, fine clays ; second, sandy clay, Upper Assam.
containing gravel ; and thirdly, sand and gravel.

The climate of Upper Assam is characterized by climate of.
equability, in consequence of its moisture as well
as of its cloudiness in the cold weather. The for-
mer diminishing the summer heat, and the latter,
combined with the effect of its forest-covered
surface, the cold of winter. The wind in As-
sam is north-east at all seasons, and the whole
valley lies in the direction of its current. It
would appear, that 82° Fahr. at Suddya is con-
sidered as excessive as 96° in Calcutta, while Range of Ther-
the greatest cold of winter seems to be from 42° ™**""^*^'"-
to 38° ; (but a temperature of 32° and of 92° have
been observed. Vide p. 301.) The absence of
any season of perfect drought, and an excessively Moisture.
humid atmosphere, are the peculiar features of
the climate. Throughout the cold season, dense
vapours arise, and form mists, which have a ten-
dency to occupy the south side of the valley.

The observations of Mr. M'Clelland on the soil soii of Tea
in which the tea plant is found in Assam are ^*"^'
particularly valuable. At the Kujoo tea tract, he
describes the soil as " perfectly loose, and sink-
ing under the feet with a certain degree of elasti-
city, derived from dense meshes of succulent
fibres, prolonged in every direction from various
roots. Its colour is light gray, perfectly dry and dry and sandy
dusty, although the surrounding country was still ** ^"•'"°'
wet, from the effects of rain that had fallen for
several days immediately prior to our visit." He

u 2



soil dryandsan-
dyat Kujoo;

less so where
drainage more

At Tingrai in
udark soil.

Upper Assam
Tea soil.

Chemical ana-
lysis of

further found the peculiarities of the soil disap-
pear with the tea plant itself, beyond the extent
of a circular space of about three hundred yards
in diameter. At Nigroo, the plants were found to
disappear towards the brow of the mound, the
soil becoming gray and sandy — "a fact which
first suggested the idea, that where the drainage
is more powerful on the summit of an elevation,
the plant requires a different soil from that in
which it flourishes in low ground." At Gubroo,
the elevation is sandy on which the tea plant is
found, but it is surrounded with inundation. At
Tingrai, the first plants were seen in a dark soil.
*' The number of young plants found in this soil
aflfords an encouraging instance of the disposition
of the plant to accommodate itself to any soil, as
far at least as its vegetative powers are concerned."
But the plants were found to increase in size and
number as they approached the light sandy soil.
In the analysis of the soils, Mr. M'Clelland
found that at Kujoo, the tea soil in the state
in which it exists in nature contained only 18J per
cent., while the common soil contained 26 per
cent, of water. The Kujoo tea soil contained in
200 parts — water, 37 ; fresh fibres, 1 ; vegetable
matter, 5^ ; silex, 135 ; alumina, 1 1 ; oxide of iron,
4 J. The black soil contained less silex, and more
water and vegetable matter; some of the latter
was in the form of extractive, which "operates by
affording coherency and solidity to the surface,
while a portion of the vegetable matter, united


with the extractive, assists in retaining moisture upper Assam

at the surface." Where the vegetable matter is ^^ ^''*

greatest, alumina, the common absorbent principle

of soils, is least, and the quantity of alumina is

also in proportion to the degree of insulation of

the soil with regard to moisture, and the greater

drainage to which it is exposed : whence Mr.

M'C. concludes that " the narrowest inference we

can draw from this is, that the same soil would

not be suitable to the plant in every situation."

An examination of some soil in which the tea ^ea soU from
plant is cultivated in China, yielded in 200 parts ^^'^
— of silex, 135; alumina, 36; carbonate of mag-
nesia, 6 ; carbonate of lime, 4 ; oxide of iron, 13 ;
roots and fibres of plants, 2 ; water of absorption,
4. But in the recent state, this soil no doubt con-
tained a larger proportion of water.

In conclusion, Mr.M*Clelland observes, with re- goiis and situa-
spect to the soils and situations, that the tea plant p,^t bif*
is found in Assam, first, on the level plain, and Assam,
second, on mounds somewhat raised above the
plain.* The first situations are distinguished from
the rest of the plain by a porous structure, and the
peculiar character of maintaining a dry surface
under exposure to excessive moisture ; the second,
by a structure less porous than the first. In both,
the plants are situated above the range of inunda-
tions which prevail during the greater portion of
the year on the adjoining lands.

♦ Since then many localities of the tea plant have been dis-
covered by Mr. Bruce on the hills in Upper Assam, vide p. 285.



Sites secured
from excess of
moisture by
their porous

Tea plant
found in a bar-
ren soil and
moist climate.

Mr. Griffith's

"The important peculiarity of these sites is,
that they are less secure from inundations by
their elevations than by their structure. Indeed,
the lower sites are scarcely raised more than a yard
above the adjoining flat plains, which are exposed
to inundations, not merely during falls of rain, but
also from the overflowings of the great rivers.
But these circumstances, which are sources of
fertility to the adjoining lands, appear to pro-
duce an opposite effect on the sites of the tea
plant, thus causing the peculiar condition on
which the presence of the plant in some measure
depends. Protected in Assam under the shades
of dense forests, and a gloomy and excessively
humid atmosphere, the tea plant flourishes in its
barren soil along the verge of rivers, lakes, and
marshy lands."

Mr. Griffith has also published a valuable re-
port on the tea plant of Upper Assam*, in wliich
the movements of the Deputation, the enume-

• Transactions Agricultural Society of Calcutta, vol. v., p.
xcvi., 1838 Mr. G. has also published several profound papers
on the structure of different families of plants in the Transac-
tions of the Asiatic and Linnean Societies, and will, no doubt,
enrich science with many more. The Herbarium collected by
him in his different joumies on which he has been employed by
the Indian Government since 1836 has arrived at the India
House in excellent order. The collections are — from the Kha-
siya Mountains, 1,756 species, Assam, 1,763, Mishmee Moun-
tains, 1,186, Bootan, 1,595, Naga Mountains and Burma
1,200 ; in all, 7,500 species. But Mr. G. sUites that the amount
will have to be considerably reduced when a general catalogue

Online LibraryJ. Forbes (John Forbes) RoyleEssay on the productive resources of India [electronic resource] → online text (page 20 of 32)