Kangra Tea: A Journey of Flavors and Challenges

Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India, is known for its tea production. The valley is home to some of the finest teas in the world, which have been cultivated and manufactured since the middle of the 19th century. However, the tea industry in Kangra has had its ups and downs, and today it faces many challenges. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history and decline of the Kangra tea industry.

Unique Characteristics

  • Kangra tea boasts distinctive characteristics attributed to the region's climate, terrain, and soil conditions. The coolness of the snow-clad mountains imparts a refreshing touch to the tea, making each cup a delightful experience. Its milder flavor compared to Darjeeling tea, coupled with a fuller body and rich liquor, sets Kangra tea apart in the world of teas.
  • It is made from the leaves, buds, and tender stems of the Camellia sinensis species cultivated in the Kangra valley.
  • Kangra tea leaves are narrow and have a multi-stemmed frame.
  • Black tea and green tea have both been cultivated in the Kangra Valley.
  • Green tea has a subtle woody aroma, while black tea has a sweet, lasting aftertaste.
  • It has a light colour and a high body in liquor.

Geographical Indication (GI) Status

In a significant development, Kangra tea has earned recognition from the European Union (EU) as a protected Geographical Indication (GI). This accolade not only acknowledges the tea's exceptional quality but also opens doors to enhanced market opportunities, especially in European markets.The tag will help Kangra tea to get an opportunity to enter the European market. 

Kangra tea received the Indian GI tag in 2005 by the Registrar of Geographical Indicators, Chennai. Since 1999, the cultivation and development of tea have improved constantly in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh.

History of Kangra Tea

Tea was first planted in Kangra between 1830 and 1840 by European tea planters, whose firm was known as the Nissan Tea Company. The history of Kangra tea dates back to 1849 when Dr. Jameson, then superintendent of the Botanical Tea Gardens, pronounced the region ideal for tea cultivation. Kangra green and black tea are exclusive due to being one of India’s smallest tea regions. Hybrid China tea, known to be rich in flavour, is grown across the valley and compares favourably with the tea grown in other parts of the world.

The Early Years

In the early years, the tea industry flourished in the valley because of suitable agro-climatic conditions and the availability of plenty of land for tea cultivation. Tea seed imported from China responded well in the valley’s podzolic grey soil with PH of about 5.4. In 1886, the Kangra tea was awarded a gold medal at an exhibition in London. Until 1905, the Kangra tea was rated finest in the world for its flavour and quality.

The Setback

The Kangra earthquake of 1905 proved fatal for tea production when a large number of tea gardens were destroyed, several tea factories were razed to earth and a number of tea planters were killed. The administration then declared the Kangra valley as an unsafe zone, and almost all the European tea planters left the valley after selling their plantations to Indian growers. This, however, was not the end of miseries of the Kangra tea industry, for it received another setback in 1914 during World War I, when young men in large numbers joined the Army, adversely affecting the availability of labour. The situation discouraged and demoralised the surviving tea planters.

The Decline

Later, the fragmentation of the states started, and the tea plantations were in a state of complete neglect, and tea, which was more remunerative till yesterday, started getting replaced with other crops. The two Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971 further hit the Kangra tea as it lost its Afghanistan market in the wake of hostilities among the two countries. Once popular in Europe, Central Asia, Australia, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Kangra tea has almost lost its flavour and production in recent years. The annual production has come down to 9-10 lakh kg as against 17-18 lakh kg a few decades ago.

Government Support

Before 2001, the government has been extending technical and financial support to the planters. The growers were getting various subsidies on fertiliser, equipment, and pesticides, etc. However, after 2001, the subsidies were discontinued. The government’s masterplan to revive abandoned tea gardens remained confined to the files, a big setback to the industry.


Earlier, plantations were not properly maintained because of labour issues. With the advent of mechanisation (plucking machine, pruning machine) during 2014-15, the growers let out a sigh of relief as they were now able to maintain their estates. The area that had been abandoned earlier due to labour shortage was now planted, and tea leaves are being plucked there with mechanical harvesters.

Current Scenario

Today, around 1,400 hectares of land is under tea cultivation, up from 1,100 hectares a few years ago. As tea cultivation is no longer a profitable venture, the areas that were under tea plantation are being replaced by housing colonies, hotels, tourist resorts and shops.

Future Prospects

With renewed focus on reviving abandoned tea gardens and leveraging modern techniques, the future of Kangra tea looks promising. Efforts to enhance production, improve quality, and explore new markets are underway, ensuring that Kangra tea retains its esteemed position in the global tea market.


The Kangra tea industry has a rich history, but its decline has been a sad story. The industry has faced numerous challenges, including natural disasters, war, labour shortages, and lack of government support. While mechanisation has helped to some extent, the industry still faces many challenges. However, there is hope that the industry can be revived with the right support and investment. Kangra tea is still considered one of the finest teas in the world, and it would be a shame to see it disappear altogether.


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