Time for Tea

Tea, once growing in the wildernesses of Assam, blossomed into one of the most economically viable plants of India. It gifted our country a flourishing industry involving not only huge finances but also a wide range of human resources. Over centuries this wonder beverage has got interwoven with our history and culture and become a way of life in India.

There are few who are as qualified as Prafull Goradia to write the story of tea in India. Chairman of the Contemporary Group, he has had a long career in tea. Indeed, in 1979 he wrote a 99 page tract titled Profiles of Tea that was published by Oxford + IBH.

Although he has written extensively in the intervening years- mainly on a range of political topics- he returns now to The Saga of Indian Tea with Kalyan Sircar, a two volume compilation of the history and economics of the tea trade in India. Volume 1 is out now, and Volume 2 is in preparation and together, these will provide a comprehensive view of this very important subject.

The book is published by Contemporary Targett, a part of the Contemporary Group of Companies. While their primary interests are in tea brokerage, they also publish books, make dental products, and run the Indian School in New Delhi. Another of their publications is the magazine Contemporary Tea Time. This started as a black & white 24 page pamphlet, which evolved into the magazine it is today, tacklingi ssues that are relevant to the tea trade, the estates, and to planters. This is also an area of considerable interest to those who study our colonial past. Tea was very much once "the white man’s preserve".

Goradia has been in tea since 1959 and has experience that ranges from auctioning, to producing, to the marketing of tea. He has twice been a member of the Tea Board and chairman of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association in 1975. Apart from tea, his interests have ranged from jute, tobacco, cigarettes to the manufacture of oral care products. In 1976, he innovated the Boeing bag, layered with hessian and polythene for bulk packing of tea. The saving in wood as a result has been enormous; today 80% of Indian tea is packed in jute and polythene.

Sircar studied at London School of Economics and held senior teaching positions in a number of institutions of higher education in UK. He has published articles in academic journals of Europe and India on subjects of Indian indentured labour, migration and economic development, tea plantation labour and early management problems of tea companies in India.

The Saga of Indian Tea gives a panoramic and comprehensive view of the industry, including chapters on the different regions where tea is produced, details of how the plant is tended and cared for, how tea is manufactured... There are reproductions of some classic photographs in the book that give a glimpse of how things were (and sometimes continue to be) done- see the photo on the left, for instance, where two workers are sifting tea. Other chapters deal with Trade and Commerce, Development, the conditions of labour on the estates, the role of Government and the state of the Industry. A final chapter in Volume 1 deals with the changes brought about by indigenization.

Find it on Scholars in our General Books section, at Rs 1800, 688 pages, in hardcover, ISBN: 9788190649414