The story of Darjeeling tea started some 150 years ago when Dr.Campbell (civil surgeon), as an experiment planted tea seeds in his garden at Beechwood, Darjeeling, 7000ft above sea level. He was reasonably successful in raising the plant, so the government, in 1847, elected to put out tea nurseries in this area.
According to records, the first commercial tea gardens planted out by the British interests were Tukvar, Steinthal and Aloobari tea estates. This was 1852 and all the tea estates used seeds that were raised in government nurseries. Darjeeling was then a sparsely populated hamlet that was being used as a hill resort by the army and the affluent people. Tea, being a labour intensive enterprise, required sufficient number of people to plant,tend,pluck and finally manufacture their produce. For this employment was offered to the local people of Darjeeling and people across the border of Nepal.
Its appears that in 1866, Darjeeling had 39 gardens producing a total crop of 21000 kilograms of tea. In 1870,the number of gardens increased to 56, producing about 71000 kilograms of tea harvested from 4400 hectres. During 1860-1864, the Darjeeling company was established with 4 new gardens. By this time Darjeeling tea was found to be a profitable venture. Today, Darjeeling produce the world’s best aromatic teas. Presently Darjeeling has 86 tea gardens which produces about 10 million kgs of tea annually. Tea is grown in Darjeeling from a height of 100 mts.(300ft) to 2000mts (6000ft). Some 6000 shoots of tea leaves and a bud from these bushes make about ½ kg, whereas light leaf Assam can produce the same quantity with about 3000 shoots(all Darjeeling teas are hand plucked).