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History of Wah Tea


history

In the late 1850s and early 1860s, tea estates started to sprout up around India, mainly in the form of independent initiatives in different regions.

Tucked away in the Himalayan foothills in Himachal Pradesh state in India is Kangra district, where tea took root after Dr Jameson, then Superintendent of the Botanical Gardens in Peshawar in the North West Provinces, on a visit in 1849, declared that the district was right for tea cultivation. Seedlings were brought in from China and the first estate was set up in 1852.

The second half of the 19th century saw a small, but thriving tea industry take shape in Kangra. In its hey day, Kangra was the tea of choice in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and even reached Europe and USA.

Kangra tea fell off the map when a devastating earthquake struck the region in 1905 and badly disrupted the industry. European planters left the region, handing over their estates to their workers or local traders.

Today, there are just a handful of private tea estates, in an area where small growers comprise 96 per cent, holding an average of 2 hectares each.

That is why, Wah Tea Estate, with a continuous history of cultivation since 1857, deserves all the attention it can get. The name Wah derives from Wah in Pakistan - the first owner was the Nawab of Wah. In 1953, the estate was taken over by the 'chaiwala family'. 'Chaiwalas', which literally mean 'tea planters', have been closely related with the Indian tea industry for atleast half a century. Wah has passed hands within the family and is now looked after by Deepak and Surya, the third and fourth generation of the family.

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