The Indian Tea Research Stations

Nestled between the meandering loops of the Tocklai River, just south of Jorhat, a once humble market town turned Cosmopolitan City, sits the Tocklai Experimental Station (TES).

Founded in 1911 with just one laboratory and two bungalows to its name the TES, or Tocklai as it is popularly known, is currently at the forefront of tea research; not bad for the oldest research station of its type in the world.

The Tea Experimental Stations in India have a proud place in the nation’s tea history but they are not much known outside their home country.

After the successful creation of its Scientific Department in 1900, the Indian Tea Association (ITA) saw the many benefits gained from further examination into all aspects of tea cultivation and processing.

The ITA realised that much could be gained from further research and examination, and with funding from the industry, the national Government of India, as well the Indian states of Assam and Bengal the Tocklai station was formed. The site was provided by the Jorehaut Tea Company and met all the criteria; located centrally within a major tea producing district, with good rail and river links for transport.

Initially, research was aimed at looking into methods of tea production such as planting, plucking, and pruning. Soon after, environmental contributors such as soil, topography of the land, climate, moisture, a tea gardens proximity to jungle, as well as chemical aspects of tea plants such as disease resistance and type of manure used were all given thorough examination.

Up until this point organised research into tea did not exist in any shape or form, with contributions and advances in research only occurring as a result of the tireless efforts of pioneers working, often, against great resistance from the tea industry.

In 1964 the Tea Research Association (TRA) was founded, with Tocklai at the centre of operations covering all of North East India as well as the creation of a substation in Nagrakata.

Membership to the TRA was voluntary and aimed to pass information and best practice, through its advisory network, to participating tea estates.

Today, the TRA’s advisory network covers 1,076 tea estates spread all over the North and South Banks, Upper Assam, Cachar, Tripura, Dooars, Darjeeling, and Terai.

By Phillip Hogan - All About Tea UK