BRUCE'S REPORT ON ASSAM TEA
CHAMBERS EDINBURGH JOURNAL
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紅茶専門店 TEAS Liyn-an 店主 堀田信幸
THE difficulty of carrying on dealings with China,
which seems to be always increasing, has of late years
led to an anxious discussion of the possibility of obtaining
tea from a different source.
A kindred plant, used as a tea in Paraguay, has been
pointed out to the attention of British speculators
; and of this article, it will be recollected, we lately
gave an account from the writings of a great variety
It must be generally known that a prospect has also
arisen of obtaining the ordinary tea from an Asiatic
soil, near to, but independent of, China.
In 1834, a committee was formed at Calcutta, for
the purpose of promoting the culture of the teaplant
in British India, and steps were immediately taken for
introducing seeds and plants from China, Before these
were procured, it became known that the tea-plant grew
naturally in Assam, a large region five hundred miles
to the north of Calcutta, situated on the great Bramah-pootra
river, and, though not subject to the East India Company,
yet under British influence.
Mr C.A.Bruce (who, it appears, made this discovery
fourteen years ago) was immediately appointed by the
committee to survey the district, and report on its
capabilities of producing the plant, under culture.
A report from Mr Bruce, dated at Jaipore, June 10th,
1839, has just reached this country, and, having been
favoured with an early copy of it, we propose making
our readers acquainted with some of the principal facts
which it presents.
The districts of Muttock and Singpho, to which Mr
Brace's inquiries have as yet been confined, lie between
the 26th and 28th degrees of north latitude, and the
94th and 96th degrees of east longitude, a situation
corresponding, in one important respect, to the
best tea-districts in China, which lie between the 27th
and 31st parallels.
It is a country, with respect to agriculture and
social institutions, in a very deplorable state ; the
people are of migratory habits, and dreadfully
addicted to opium.
It is amidst the widespread natural woods or jungles
which cover a large portion of the country, and under
favour of their shade, that Mr Bruce has found
the tea-plant growing.
It generally grows in tracts, a few hundred yards
in extent, with occasional trees forming a sort of connection
between one tract and another.
Mr Bruce has now found a hundred and twenty
They are all on plains.
The following extract will afford some idea of his
procedure in searching for tea-tracts : "Last year,
in going over one of the hills behind Jaipore,
about 300 feet high, I came upon a tea-tract, which
must have been two or three miles in length infact I
did not see the end ofit ; the trees were in most parts
as thick as they could grow, and the tea seeds
(smaller than what 1 had seen before), fine and fresh,
literally covered the ground: this was in the
middle of November, and the trees had abundance of
fruit and flower on them.
One of the largest trees I found to be two cubits
in circumference, and full forty cubits in height.
At the foot of the hill I found another tract, and,
had time permitted me to explore those parts, there
is no doubt but I should have found many of the Naga
Hills covered with tea.
I have since been informed of two more tracts near
In going along the foot of the hills to the westward,
I was informed that there was tea at Teweack, or near
it : this information came too late, for I had passed
it, just a little to the east of the Dacca River, at
a place called Chiridoo, a small hill projecting out
more than the rest on the plain to the northward, with
the ruins of a brick temple on it ; here I found tea,
and no doubt, if there had been time to examine, I should
have found many more tracts, I crossed the Dacca River
at the old fort of Ghergong, and walked towards the
hills, and almost immediately came upon tea.
The place is called Hauthoweah.
Here I remained a couple of days going about the
country, and came upon no fewer than thirteen tracts.
A Dewaniah who assisted me to hunt out these tracts,
and who was well acquainted with the leaf, as he had
been in the habit of drinking tea during his residence
with the Singphoes, informed me that he had seen a large
tract of tea-plants on the Naga mountains, a day's journey
west of Chiridoo.
I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this man
; he offered to point out the place to me, or any of
my men, if they would accompany him ; but as the country
belonged to Raja Poorunda Sing, I could not examine
I feel convinced the whole of the country is full
Again, in going farther to the south-west, just before
I came to Gabrew hill, I found the small hills adjoining
it, to the eastward, covered with tea-plants.
The flowers of the tea on these hills are of a pleasant
delicate fragrance, unlike the smell of our other tea-plants
; but the loaves and fruit appear the same.
This would be a delightful place for the manufacture
of tea, as the country is well populated, has abundance
of grain, and labour is cheap.
There is a small stream called the Jhamgy river,
at a distance of two hours' walk ; it is navigable,
I am informed, all the year round for small canoes,
which would carry down the tea, and the place is only
one and a half day's journey from Jorehaut, the capital
of Upper Assam.
Southwest of Grabrew Purbut (about two days' journey)
there is a village at the foot of the hill, inhabited
by a race called Norahs ; they are Shans, I believe,
as they came from the eastward, where tea abounds.
I had long conversations with them, and the oldest
man of the village, who was also the head of it, informed
me, that when his father was a young man, he had emigrated
with many others, and settled at Tipum opposite Jaipore,
on account of the constant disturbances at Munkum ;
that they brought the tea-plant with them, and planted
it on-the Tipum hill, where it exists to this day; and
that when he was about sixteen years of age, he was
obliged to leave Tipurm, on account of the wars and
disturbances at that place, and take shelter at the
village where he now resides.
This man said he was now eighty years of age, and
that his father died a very old man.
How true this storyis, I cannot say, and do not see
what good it would do the old man to fabricate it.
This was the only man I met with in my journeys about
the country who could give any account of the tea-plant,
with the exception of an Ahum, who declared to me that
it was Sooka, or the first Kacharry raja of Assam, who
brought the tea-plant from Munkum; he said it was written
in his Putty, or history.
The Ahum-Putty I have never been able to get hold
of; but this I know, that the information about the
tea-plant pointed out by the old Norah man, as being
on the Tipum hill, is true ; for I have cleared the
tract where it grew thickest, about 300 yards by 300,
running from the foot of the hill to the top.
The old man told me his father cut the plant down
every third year, that he might get the young leaves.
To the west of Gabrew I did not find any tea ; but
to the westward of the Dhunseeree river I found a species,
though not the same as that we use.
If the people on the west side of the Dhunseeree
river were acquainted with the true leaf, I think tea
would be found.
I planted it all along the route I went, which may
lead to its eventual discovery ; but people should be
sent to search for the plant who are really acquainted
I think a vast quantity of tea would be brought to
light if this were done." Mr Bruce has also
been engaged in experiments on the character of the
tea produced in Assam.
Ninety chests of the article prepared by him and
his assistants were imported into London in 1838, and
found, we are told, to be of good quality.
In his report we find some notices respecting these
operations : " Until lately, we had only two Chinese
black tea makers.
These men have twelve native assistants ; each Chinaman,
with six assistants, ean only superintend one locality,
and the tea-leaves from the various other tracts, widely
separated, must be brought to these two places for manufacture.
The consequence is, that an additional number of
labourers must always be employed to bring the leaves
from so great a distance.
The leaves suffer when brought in large quantities
from a distance, as they soon begin to ferment, and
the labour of only preparing them so far in process,
that they may not spoil by the morning, is excessive.
The men have often to work until very late to accomplish
When labour falls so very heavy, and on so very few,
it cannot be expected that it can be equally well executed,
as if more had been employed.
The leaves last gathered are also much larger than
they ought to be, for want of being collected and manufactured
earlier ; consequently the tea is inferior in quality.
I mention this to show the inconvenience and expense
of having so few tea-makers.
The samples of black tea made by the twelve assistants
having been approved of by the Tea Committee in Calcutta,
it was my intention to have distributed the men among
the different tracts ; hut the late disturbances on
our frontier have prevented this arrangement, and I
have been obliged to employ ten men in Assam (two others
having gone to Calcutta in charge of tea) at the tract
called Kahung, which is becoming a very extensive and
important tea locality, so many others being near it,
which can all be thrown into one.
When we have a sufficient number of manufacturers,
so that we can afford to have some at each tract or
garden, as they have in China, then we may hope to compete
with that nation in cheapness of produce, nay, we might
and ought to undersell them ; for if each tract or garden
had its own tea-maker and labourers, the collecting
of the leaves would not perhaps occupy more than twelve
days in each crop; after which the men might be discharged,
or profitably employed on the tea-grounds.
But now, for the want of a sufficient number of labourers
and tea-makers, there is a constant gathering of leaves
throughout the month ; and, as I said before, those
gathered last can only make inferior teas ; besides
the great loss by the leaves getting too old, and thereby
unfit for being made into any tea, and all this entirely
for want of hands to pluck the leaves.
It is true we have gained twelve black tea makers
this year, in addition to the last; and twelve more
native assistants have been appointed, who may he available
next year to manufacture tea independently, as they
were learning the art all last year.
We have also had an addition to our establishment
of two Chinese green tea manufacturers, and twelve native
assistants have been placed under thern, to learn ;
but what are those compared to the vast quantity of
tea, or the ground the tea-plants cover, or might be
made to cover, in three years, but a drop of water in
We must go on at a much faster pace in the two great
essentials-tea manufacturers and labourers-in order
to have them available at each garden, when the leaves
come into season." Mr Bruce has been engaged
in extensive operations in introducing tea-plants from
China, and transplanting those which are indigenous.
Many, from various causes, have failed; but he mentions
his belief, that the tea-plant is so hardy that it will
live in almost any soil, provided it be planted in deep
shade, and with plenty of water near the root.
The reason for these transplantations seems to be
that the tea-tree is only of use within a certain age.
Many of the indigenous trees of Assam are beyond
this age and otherwise unsuitable.
On the other hand, planting seed is not calculated
to be immediately satisfactory, as until the third year
they produce nothing, and are only in maturity when
about six years old.
Mr Bruce argues for the propriety of burning or cutting
down the old trees, in order to have fresh shoots from
the stock, which he thinks would add greatly to their
productiveness, and cause them to afford a fine and
He confirms the fact lately made known, that the
black and green tea are gathered from the same plant,
and that the difference is entirely owing to the different
states of the leaves and the different modes of preparation.
His account of the manufacture of green tea by his
Chinamen is extremely curious, but too long to be here
The demoralisation produced by opium, and a liking
for independent labour which characterises the Assamese,
throw difficulties in the way of a large production
of tea in Assam.
Mr Bruce looks to the introduction of workmen from
other parts of India, for the means of carrying on the
manufacture on a large scale.
He also thinks it not impossible that the leaves
may be sent home in a certain state to this country,
and here subjected, by the cheap means of machinery,
to those nice and tedious processes which they have
to undergo from manual labour in China.
"After a year's instruction under Chinamen,"
says he, " it might he left to the ingenuity of
Englishmen to roll, sift, and clean the tea by machinery,
and, in fact, reduce the price of the green tea nearly
one-half, and thus enable the poor to drink good unadulterated
green tea by throwing the indigo and sulphate of lime
"Five tea tracts were under culture in Assam
in 1838, the produce of which amounted to 5274 pounds.
Seven new tracts will be under culture in 1840, when
Mr Bruce thinks the total produce will be 11,160 pounds.
These operations are at the cost of the company ;
but it is designed ere long to throw the business open
to private speculation, Mr Bruce enters into some calculations
to show the probable profits of private adventures in
He takes ten tracts, each 400 by 200 yards, and reckons
the whole expenses of cultivation the first year at
16,591 rupees (which we believe is the same as £1659),
of which 4304 will not need to be repeated the second
year; and the value of the produce he estimates at 35,554
rupees, thus giving a profit of upwards of cent, per
Upon the whole, there seems little reason to doubt
that Assam is physicaily capable of producing that important
article, on which eight or nine millions of money are
annually spent in the United Kingdom.
It may, however, be long before such a system for
its manufacture be established in the country as to
ensure the culture of the plant on a large scale, the
selection of the proper leaves, and the many niceties
drying and manipulating.