Ordered to inspect the tea-plantations in India Deyra Doon plantation Mussooree and Landour Flora of the mountains Height and general character Our mode of travelling Hill-plants resemble those of China Guddowli plantation Chinese manufacturers located there I bid them farewell The country improves in fertility Tea-plantations near Almorah Zemindaree plantations Leave Almorah for Bheem Tal View of the Snowy range Bheem Tal tea-plantations General observations on tea culture in India Suggestions for its improvement Other plants which ought to he introduced Nainee Tal Arrive at Calcutta The Victoria regia.
SOON after my arrival at Saharunpore I received through the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces orders from the Governor-General of India to visit all the tea plantations in the districts of Gurhwal and Kumaon, and to draw up a report upon their condition and future prospects. In this tour of inspection I was accompanied by Dr. Jameson, who has the charge of all the Government tea plantations. The first plantations we visited were those in the Deyra Doon.
The Deyra Doon, or Valley of Deyra, is situated in latitude 30° 18' north, and in longitude 78° east. It is about 60 miles in length from east to west, and 16 miles broad at its widest part. It is bounded on the south by the Sewalick range of hills, and on the north by the Himalayas proper, which are here nearly 8000 feet above the level of the sea. On the west it is open to the river Jumna, and on the east to the Ganges, the distance between these rivers being about 60 miles.
In the centre of this flat valley the Kaolagir tea plantation has been formed. Eight acres were under cultivation in 1847. There are now 300 acres planted, and about 90 more taken in and ready for many thousands of young plants lately raised from seeds in the plantation.
The soil is composed of clay, sand, and vegetable matter, rather stiff and apt to get "baked" in dry weather, but free enough when it is moist or during the rains. It rests upon a gravelly subsoil, consisting of limestone, sandstone, clay-slate, and quartz rock, or of such rocks as enter into the composition of the surrounding mountain ranges. The surface is comparatively flat, although it falls in certain directions towards the ravines and rivers.
The plants are arranged neatly in rows 5 feet apart, and each plant is about 4 ½ feet from the next one. A long rank-growing species of grass, indigenous to the Doon, is most difficult to keep from overtopping the tea-plants, and is the cause of much extra labour. Besides the labour common to all tea-countries in China, such as weeding, and occasionally loosening the soil, there is here an extensive system of irrigation carried on. To facilitate this, the plants are planted in trenches, from four to six inches below the level of the ground, and the soil thus dug out is thrown between the rows to form the paths. Hence the whole of the plantation consists of numerous trenches. At right angles with these trenches a small stream is led from the canal, and by opening or shutting their ends irrigation can be carried on at the pleasure of the overseer.
The plants generally did not appear to me to be in that fresh and vigorous condition which I had been accustomed to see in good Chinese plantations. This, in my opinion, is caused, 1st, by the plantation being formed on flat land; 2nd, by the system of irrigation; 3rd, by too early plucking; and 4th, by hot drying winds, which are not unfrequent in this valley from April to the beginning of June.
Leaving the Doon, we took the hill-road for Paorie, near which was the next tea-plantation on our route. This road led us through the well-known hill stations of Mussooree and Landour. As we ascended the mountains, it was curious to mark the changes which took place in the character of the vegetable productions. On the plains and lower sides of these hills such plants as Justicia Adhatoda, Bauhinia racemosa and variegata, Vitex trifolia, Grislea tomentosa, &c., grew in the greatest profusion. Higher up, say 3000 or 4000 feet above the level of the sea, Berberis asiatica makes its appearance, while nearer the top we find Oaks, Rhododendrons, Berberis nepalensis, Andromeda ovalifolia, Viburnums, Spirζas, and many other plants which are either hardy or half-hardy in England.
The mountains about Mussooree and Landour are nearly 8000 feet above the level of the sea. Their sides are steep, and they are generally exceedingly barren; here and there I observed little terraced patches of cultivation, but these were few and far between. The view from the tops of these mountains on a clear day is very fine. The Valley of Deyra lies spread out to the southward, and appears as if bounded on all sides by hills, while to the northward nothing is seen but rugged barren mountains and deep glens. The snowy range is also visible when the atmosphere is clear.
Leaving these hill stations on the 30th of May, we went onwards in an easterly direction along the sides of the mountains. The country was very mountainous, and there were no traces of cultivation for many miles on this part of our journey. A long train of Paharies or hill-men carried our tents, luggage, and provisions. Dr. Jameson and myself rode on ponies, while Mrs. Jameson, who accompanied us, was carried in a jaun-pan, or kind of light sedan-chair. In many places our road led along the sides of precipices which it made one giddy to look down, and had we made a single false step we should have fallen far beyond the reach of earthly aid.
On the journey along the upper sides and tops of these mountains, I had a good opportunity of observing the character of their vegetable productions. As Royle and other travellers have told us, the flora of the Himalayas at high elevations bears a striking resemblance to that of European countries; and I can add that it resembles still more the hill vegetation of the same latitudes in China. In fact many of the species found in the Himalayas are identical with those which I met with on the Bohea mountains, and on the hills of Chekiang and Kiang-see. I might here give the names of the different plants met with on this journey from Mussooree to Paorie, but it will, perhaps, be better for me to refer the reader for such information to Royle's 'Illustrations of the Botany of the Himalayan Mountains.'
On the morning of the 6th of June we arrived at the Guddowli plantation near Paorie. This plantation is situated in the province of Eastern Gurhwal, in latitude 30° 8' north, and in longitude 78° 45' east. It consists of a large tract of terraced land, extending from the bottom of a valley or ravine to more than 1000 feet up the sides of the mountain. Its lowest portion is about 4300 feet, and its highest 5300 feet, above the level of the sea: the surrounding mountains appear to be from 7000 to 8000 feet high. The plantation has not been measured, but there are, apparently, fully one hundred acres under cultivation.
There are about 500,000 plants, about 3400 of which were planted in 1844 and are now in full bearing; the greater portion of the others are much younger, having been planted out only one, two, or three years. There are besides a large number of seedlings in beds ready for transplanting.
The soil consists of a mixture of loam, sand, and vegetable matter, is of a yellow colour, and is most suitable for the cultivation of the tea-plant. It resembles greatly the soil of the best tea districts in China. A considerable quantity of stones are mixed with it, chiefly small pieces of clay-slate, of which the mountains here are composed. Large tracts of equally good land, at present covered with jungle, might be made available in this district without interfering in any way with the rights of the settlers.
I have stated that this plantation is formed on the hill side. It consists of a succession of terraces, from the bottom to the top, on which the tea-bushes are planted. In its general features it is very like a Chinese tea-plantation, although one rarely sees tea-lands terraced in China. This, however, may be necessary in the Himalayas, where the rains fall so heavily. Here too a system of irrigation is carried on, although to a small extent only, owing to the scarcity of water during the dry season.
This plantation is a most promising one, and I have no doubt will be very valuable in a few years. The plants are growing admirably, and evidently like their situation. Some of them are suffering slightly from the effects of hard plucking, like those at Kaolagir; but this can easily be avoided in their future management. Altogether, it is in a most satisfactory condition, and shows how safe it is in matters of this kind to follow the example of the Chinese cultivator, who never makes his tea-plantations on low rice land and never irrigates.
The country about Paorie is entirely mountainous. Whichever way we look, east, west, south, or north, nothing is seen but mountains and hills, stony ravines, and deep glens. The view is bounded on the north and north-west by the snowy range.
The land is much more fertile than about Mussooree, and more thickly inhabited. Cultivated spots are everywhere visible, particularly on the lower portions of the hills and to about half way up their sides. All above that is generally barren, and, I should think, is rarely visited by man.
The Chinese manufacturers whom I had brought round from China were located on this farm. They had nice cottages and gardens given them, and everything was done which could add to their comfort in a strange land. On the morning I left Paorie the poor fellows got up early, and were dressed in their holiday clothes to bid me good bye. They brought me a packet of letters addressed to their relations in China, which they begged me to forward; they also offered me a small present, which they asked me to accept as a slight token of their gratitude for the kindness I had shown them during our long journey. This, of course, I declined, while I told them how much I was pleased with the motives by which they were actuated. I confess I felt sorry to leave them. We had travelled together for a long time, and they had always looked up to me with the most perfect confidence as their director and friend. While I had always treated them kindly myself, I had taken measures to have them kindly treated by others, and never, from the time of their engagement until I left them in their new mountain home, had they given me the slightest cause for anger.
We now proceeded to visit the plantations in the vicinity of Almorah. The country became more and more fertile as we advanced, and numerous excellent lands, well suited for the cultivation of the tea-plant, were passed on our route. On the 29th of June we arrived at the Hawulbaugh plantation.
This tea-farm is situated on the banks of the river Kosilla, about six miles north-west from Almorah, the capital of Kumaon. It is about 4500 feet above the level of the sea. The land is of an undulating character, consisting of gentle slopes and terraces, and reminded me of some of the best tea-districts in China. Indeed, the hills themselves, in this part of the Himalayas, are very much like those of China, being barren near their summit and fertile on their lower sides.
Thirty-four acres of land are under tea-cultivation here, including the adjoining farm of Chullar. Some of the plants appear to have been planted in 1844; but, as at Paorie, the greater number are only from one to three years old.
The soil is what is usually called a sandy loam; it is moderately rich, being well mixed with vegetable matter. It is well suited for tea-cultivation. The greater part of the farm is terraced as at Guddowli, but some few patches are left in natural slopes in accordance with the Chinese method. Irrigation is practised to a limited extent.
All the young plants here are in robust health and are growing well, particularly those that are on land where water cannot flood or injure them. Some few of the older bushes appear rather stunted; but this is evidently the result of water remaining stagnant about their roots, and partly also of over-plucking; both defects, however, admit of being easily cured.
Nearer Almorah, and about 5000 feet above the level of the sea, there are two small plantations named Lutchmisser and Kuppeena. The former contains three acres, and the latter four acres of land under cultivation. The soil is light and sandy, and much mixed with particles of clay-slate which have crumbled down from the adjoining rocks. These plantations are rarely irrigated, and the land is steep enough to prevent any stagnant water from remaining about the roots of the plants.
Most of the bushes here have been planted for many years. They are in full bearing, and generally in excellent health. On the whole I consider these plantations in good order.
I have now described all the Government plantations in Gurhwal and Kumaon, except those at Bheem Tal. Before visiting these, however, I was instructed to inspect some others belonging to the Zemindars, and under the patronage of the Commissioner and Assistant-Commissioner of Kumaon and Gurhwal.
The first of these is at a place named Lohba, which is situated in eastern Gurhwal, about fifty miles to the westward of Almorah, and is at an elevation of 5000 feet above the level of the sea. It is one of the most beautiful spots in this part of the Himalayas. The surrounding mountains are high, and in some parts precipitous, while in others they consist of gentle slopes and undulations. On these undulating slopes there is a great deal of excellent land suitable for tea-cultivation. A few tea-bushes have been growing vigorously for some years in the Commissioner's garden, and they are now fully 10 feet in height. These plants having succeeded so well, naturally induced the authorities of the province to try this cultivation upon a more extensive scale. It appears that in 1844 about 4000 young plants were obtained from the Government plantations, and planted on a tract of excellent land, which the natives wished to abandon. Instead of allowing the people to throw up their land, they were promised it rent-free upon the condition that they attended to the cultivation of the tea, which had been planted on a small portion of the ground attached to the village.
This arrangement seems to have failed, either from want of knowledge, or from design, or perhaps partly from both of these causes. More recently, a larger number of plants have been planted, but I regret to say with nearly the same results.
But results of this discouraging kind are what any one acquainted with the nature of the tea-plant could have easily foretold, had the treatment intended to be given it been explained to him. Upon inquiry, I found the villagers had been managing the tea-lands just as they had been doing their rice-fields, that is, a regular system of irrigation was practised. As water was plentiful, a great number of the plants, indeed nearly all, seem to have perished from this cause. The last planting alluded to had been done late in the spring, and just at the commencement of the dry weather, and to these plants little or no water seems to have been given. So that in fact it was going from one extreme to another equally bad, and the result was of course nearly the same.
I have no hesitation in saying that the district in question is well adapted for the cultivation of tea. With judicious management a most productive farm might be established here in four or five years. Land is plentiful, and of little value either to the natives or the Government.
The second Zemindaree plantation is at Kutoor. This is the name of a large district thirty or forty miles northward from Almorah, in the centre of which the old town or village of Byznath stands. It is a fine undulating country consisting of wide valleys, gentle slopes, and little hills, while the whole is intersected by numerous streams, and surrounded by high mountains. The soil of this extensive district is most fertile, and is capable of producing large crops of rice on the low irrigable lands, and dry grains and tea on the sides of the hills. From some cause, however, either the thinness of population, or the want of a remunerative crop,1 large tracts of this fertile district have been allowed to go out of cultivation. Everywhere I observed ruinous and jungle-covered terraces, which told of the more extended cultivation of former years.
Amongst some hills near the upper portion of this district, two small tea-plantations have been formed under the patronage and superintendence of Captain Ramsay, Senior Assistant-Commissioner of Kumaon. Each of them covers three or four acres of land, and had been planted about a year before the time of my visit. In this short space of time the plants had grown into nice strong bushes, and were in the highest state of health. I never saw, even in the most favoured districts in China, any plantations looking better than these. This result, Captain Ramsay informed me, had been attained in the following simple manner. All the land attached to the two villages with which the tea-farms are connected is exempted from the revenue-tax, a sum amounting to fifty-two rupees per annum. In lieu of paying this, the assamees (cultivators) of both villages furnish manure, and assist at the transplanting season, as well as in ploughing and preparing fresh land. In addition to this, one chowdree and four prisoners are constantly employed upon the plantations. The chief reason of the success of these plantations, next to that of the land being well suited for tea-cultivation, may, no doubt, be traced to a good system of management: that is, the young plants have been carefully transplanted at the proper season of the year, when the air was charged with moisture, and they have not been destroyed by excessive irrigation afterwards. The other Zemindaree plantation at Lohba might have been now in full bearing had the same system been followed.
From the description thus given, it will be observed that I consider the Kutoor plantations in a most flourishing condition; and I have no doubt they will continue to flourish, and soon convince the Zemindars of the value of tea-cultivation, provided three things intimately connected with the success of the crop are strongly impressed upon their minds; viz., the unsuitableness of low wet lands for tea cultivation; the folly of irrigating tea as they would do rice; and the impropriety of commencing the plucking before the plants are strong and of considerable size. I am happy to add that amongst these hills there are no foolish prejudices in the minds of the natives against the cultivation of tea. About the time of my visit a Zemindar came and begged to have 2000 plants to enable him to commence tea-growing on his own account.
It is of great importance that the authorities of a district and persons of influence should show an interest in a subject of this kind. At present the natives do not know its value, but they are as docile as children, and will enter willingly upon tea-cultivation providing the "sahib" shows that he is interested in it. In a few years the profits received will be a sufficient inducement.
About the middle of July we left the Almorah districts in order to visit those of Bheem Tal. Our road led across a high mountain which lies between Almorah and the plains of India. I think it is called the Gaughur mountain, and is nearly 9000 feet above the level of the sea. While winding up the sides of this mountain I had my first good view of the snowy range. We had stopped for the night at a Dβk bungalow. Next morning when we resumed our march a light drizzling rain was falling, and heavy clouds were hanging in masses about the sides of the hills. These clouds were not only above us, but they were also seen far down in the glens below. As I turned to look on this strange and wonderful scenery, the snowy mountains lay before me in all their grandeur, and the sun was shining on them. To say that they rose far above the clouds conveys no idea of their height, for I was above the clouds on the spot where I stood. Their snowy peaks seemed to reach to heaven itself, and to pierce the deep-blue sky.
Never in all my wanderings had such a view been presented to my eyes. It was indeed grand and sublime in the fullest sense of the words. How little the most gigantic works of man seemed when compared with these! The pyramids of Egypt themselves, which I had looked upon in wonder some years before, now sank into utter insignificance! I could have looked for hours upon such glorious objects, but the clouds soon closed in around me, and I saw the snowy range no more.
After crossing the Gaughur we gradually descended its southern sides until we reached the Bheem Tal tea-plantations.
The lake of Bheem Tal is situated in latitude 29° 20' north and in longitude 79° 30' east. It is 4000 feet above the level of the sea, and some of the surrounding mountains are said to be 8000 feet. These form the southern chain of the Himalayas, and bound the vast plain of India, of which a glimpse can be had through the mountain passes. Amongst these hills there are several tals or lakes, some flat meadow-looking land, and gentle undulating slopes, while higher up are steep and rugged mountains. It is amongst these hills that the Bheem Tal tea-plantations have been formed. They may be classed under three heads, viz.:
1. Anoo and Kooasur Plantations. These adjoin each other, are both formed on low flat land, and together cover about forty-six acres. The plants do not seem healthy or vigorous; many of them have died out, and few are in that state which tea-plants ought to be in. Such situations never ought to be chosen for tea-cultivation. The same objection applies to these plantations as to those at Deyra, but in a greater degree. No doubt, with sufficient drainage, and great care in cultivation, the tea-plant might be made to exist in such a situation; but I am convinced it would never grow with that luxuriance which is necessary in order to render it a profitable crop. Besides, such lands are valuable for other purposes. They are excellent rice-lands, and as such of considerable value to the natives.
2. Bhurtpoor Plantation. This plantation covers about four and a half acres of terraced land on the hill-side, a little to the eastward of those last noticed. The soil is composed of a light loam, much mixed with small pieces of clay-slate and trap or greenstone, of which the adjacent rocks are composed. It contains also a small portion of vegetable matter or humus. Both the situation and soil of this plantation are well adapted to the requirements of the tea-shrub, and consequently we find it succeeding here as well as at Guddowli, Hawulbaugh, Almorah, and other places where it is planted on the slopes of the hills.
3. Russia Plantation. This plantation extends over seventy-five acres, and is formed on sloping land. The elevation is somewhat less than Bhurtpoor, and, although terraced in the same way, the angle is much lower. In some parts of the farm the plants are doing well, but generally they seemed to be suffering from too much water and hard plucking. I have no doubt, however, of the success of this farm when the system of cultivation is improved. I observed some most vigorous and healthy bushes in the overseer's garden, a spot adjoining the plantation which could not be irrigated, and was informed they "never received any water except that which fell from the skies."
In the Bheem Tal district there are large tracts of excellent tea-land. In crossing over the hills towards Nainee Tal, with Mr. Batten, Commissioner of Kumaon, I pointed out many tracts admirably adapted for tea-cultivation, and of no great value to the natives; generally, those lands on which the mundooa is cultivated are the most suitable.
Dr. Jameson now left me and returned to his duties at Hawulbaugh, while I went on to Nainee Tal, on my way to the plains. I have great pleasure in bearing my humble testimony to the energy and skill with which Dr. Jameson has managed the tea-plantations which were placed by Government under his care. Considering that until lately we had little or no information as to how the tea-plant was managed in China, the only wonder is that so few mistakes have been made in its cultivation in India.
Having thus described all the tea-plantations in the provinces of Gurhwal and Kumaon, I shall now make some general observations upon the cultivation of the tea-plant in India, and offer some suggestions for its improvement.
1. On Land and Cultivation. From the observations already made upon the various tea-farms which I have visited in the Himalayas, it will be seen that I do not approve of low flat lands being selected for the cultivation of the tea-shrub. In China, which at present must be regarded as the model tea-country, the plantations are never made in such situations, or they are so rare as not to have come under my notice. In that country they are usually formed on the lower slopes of the hills, that is, in such situations as those at Guddowli, Hawulbaugh, Almorah, Kutoor, &c., in the Himalayas. It is true that in the fine green-tea country of Hwuy-chow, in China, near the town of Tun-che, many hundred acres of flattish land are under tea-cultivation. But this land is close to the hills, which jut out into it in all directions, and it is intersected by a river whose banks are usually from 15 to 20 feet above the level of the stream itself, not unlike those of the Ganges below Benares. In fact, it has all the advantages of hilly land such as the tea-plant delights in. In extending the Himalaya plantations this important fact ought to be kept in view.
There is no scarcity of such land in these mountains, more particularly in eastern Gurhwal and Kumaon. It abounds in the districts of Paorie, Kunour, Lohba, Almorah, Kutoor, and Bheem Tal, and I was informed by Mr. Batten that there are large tracts about Gungoli and various other places equally suitable. Much of this land is out of cultivation, as I have already stated, while the cultivated portions yield on an average only two or three annas per acre of revenue.
Such lands are of less value to the Zemindars than low rice-land where they can command a good supply of water for irrigation. But I must not be understood to recommend poor worn-out hill-lands for tea-cultivation land on which nothing else will grow. Nothing is further from my meaning. Tea, in order to be profitable, requires a good sound soil a light loam, well mixed with sand and vegetable matter, moderately moist, and yet not stagnant or sour. Such a soil, for example, as on these hill-sides produces good crops of mundooa, wheat, or millet, is well adapted for tea. It is such land which I have alluded to as abounding in the Himalayas, and which is at present of so little value either to the Government or to the natives themselves.
The system of irrigation applied to tea in India is never practised in China. I did not observe it practised in any of the great tea-countries which I visited. On asking the Chinese manufacturers whom I brought to India, and who had been born and brought up in the tea-districts, whether they had seen such a practice, they all replied, "No, that is the way we grow rice; we never irrigate tea." Indeed, I have no hesitation in saying that, in nine cases out of ten, the effects of irrigation are most injurious. When tea will not grow without irrigation, it is a sure sign that the land employed is not suitable for such a crop. It is no doubt an excellent thing to have a command of water in case of a long drought, when its agency might be useful in saving a crop which would otherwise fail, but irrigation ought to be used only on such emergencies.
I have already observed that good tea-land is naturally moist, although not stagnant; and we must bear in mind that the tea-shrub is not a water plant, but is found in a wild state on the sides of hills. In confirmation of these views, it is only necessary to observe further, that all the best Himalayan plantations are those to which irrigation has been most sparingly applied.
In cultivating the tea-shrub much injury is often done to a plantation by plucking leaves from very young plants. In China young plants are never touched until the third or fourth year after they have been planted. If growing under favourable circumstances, they will yield a good crop after that time. All that ought to be done, in the way of plucking or pruning, before that time, should be done with a view to form the plants, and make them bushy if they do not grow so naturally. If plucking is commenced too early and continued, the energies of the plants are weakened, they are long in attaining any size, and consequently there is a great loss of produce in a given number of years. A bush that has been properly treated may when eight years of age yield from two to three pounds of tea per annum, while another of the same age, but not a quarter of the size from over-plucking, may not produce more than as many ounces.
The same remarks apply also to plants which become unhealthy from any cause; leaves ought never to be taken from such plants; the gatherers should have strict orders to pass them over until they get again into a good state of health.
2. On Climate. I have already stated that eastern Gurhwal and Kumaon appear to me to be the most suitable spots for the cultivation of the tea-plant in this part of the Himalayas. My remarks upon climate will therefore refer to that part of the country.
From a table of temperature kept at Hawulbaugh from November 28th, 1850, to July 13th, 1851, obligingly furnished me by Dr. Jameson, I observe that the climate here is extremely mild. During the winter months the thermometer (Fahr.) was never lower at sunrise than 44°, and only on two occasions so low, namely on the 15th and 16th of February, 1851. Once it stood as high as 66°, on the morning of February the 4th, but this is full ten degrees higher than usual. The minimum in February must, however, be several degrees lower than is shown by this table, for ice and snow are not unfrequent; indeed opposite the 16th of February, in the column of remarks, I find written down "a very frosty morning." This discrepancy, no doubt, arises either from a bad thermometer being used, or from its being placed in a sheltered verandah. We may, therefore, safely mark the minimum as 32° instead of 44°.
The month of June appears to be the hottest in the year. I observe the thermometer on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of that month stood at 92° at 3 P. M., and this was the highest degree marked during the year. The lowest, at this hour, during the month was 76°, but the general range in the 3 P. M. column of the table is from 80° to 90°.
The wet and dry seasons are not so decided in the hills as they are in the plains. In January, 1851, it rained on five days and ten nights, and the total quantity of rain which fell, as indicated by the rain-gauge, during this month, was 5.25 inches; in February, 3.84 inches fell; in March, 2.11; in April, 2.24; in May none; and in June 6.13. In June there are generally some days of heavy rain, called by the natives Chota Bursaut, or small rains; after this there is an interval of some days of dry weather before the regular "rainy season" commences. This season comes on in July and continues until September. October and November are beautiful months, with a clear atmosphere and cloudless sky. After this fogs are frequent in all the valleys until spring.
In comparing the climate of these provinces with that of China, although we find some important differences, yet upon the whole there is a great similarity. My comparisons apply, of course, to the best tea-districts only, for, although the tea-shrub is found cultivated from Canton in the south, to Tan-chow-foo in Shan-tung, yet the provinces of Fokien, Kiang-see, and the southern parts of Kiang-nan yield nearly all the finest teas of commerce.
The town of Tsong-gan, one of the great black-tea towns near the far-famed Woo-e-shan, is situated in latitude 27° 47' north. Here the thermometer in the hottest months, namely in July and August, rarely rises above 100°, and ranges from 92° to 100° as maximum; while in the coldest months, December and January, it sinks to the freezing point and sometimes a few degrees lower. We have thus a close resemblance in temperature between Woo-e-shan and Almorah. The great green-tea district being situated two degrees further north, the extremes of temperature are somewhat greater. It will be observed, however, that while in the Himalayas the hottest month is June, in China the highest temperature occurs in July and August; this is owing to the rainy season taking place earlier in China than it does in India.
In China rain falls in heavy and copious showers towards the end of April, and these rains continue at intervals in May and June. The first gathering of tea-leaves, those from which the Pekoe is made, is scarcely over before the air becomes charged with moisture, rain falls, and the bushes, being thus placed in such favourable circumstances for vegetating, are soon covered again with young leaves, from which the main crop of the season is obtained.
No one acquainted with vegetable physiology can doubt the advantages of such weather in the cultivation of tea for mercantile purposes. And these advantages, to a certain extent at least, seem to be extended to the Himalayas, although the regular rainy season is later than in China. I have already shown, from Dr. Jameson's table, that spring showers are frequent in Kumaon, although rare in the plains of India; still, however, I think it would be prudent to adapt the gathering of leaves to the climate, that is, to take a moderate portion from the bushes before the rains, and the main crop after they have commenced.
3. On the Vegetation of China and the Himalayas. One of the surest guides from which to draw conclusions on a subject of this nature is found in the indigenous vegetable productions of the countries. Dr. Royle, who was the first to recommend the cultivation of tea in the Himalayas, drew his conclusions, in the absence of that positive information from China which we now possess, not only from the great similarity in temperature between China and these hills, but also from the resemblance in vegetable productions. This resemblance is certainly very striking. In both countries, except in the low valleys of the Himalayas (and these we are not considering), tropical forms are rarely met with. If we take trees and shrubs, for example, we find such genera as Pinus, Cupressus, Berberis, Quercus, Viburnum. Indigofera, Andromeda, Lonicera, Deutzia, Rubus, Myrica, Spirζa, Ilex, and many others common to both countries.
Amongst herbaceous plants we have Gentiana, Aquilegia, Anemone, Rumex, Primula, Lilium, Leontodon, Ranunculus, &c., equally distributed in the Himalayas and in China, and even in aquatic plants the same resemblance may be traced, as in Nelumbium, Caladium, &c. And more than this, we do not find plants belonging to the same genera only, but in many instances the identical species are found in both countries. The Indigofera, common in the Himalayas, abounds also on the tea-hills of China, and so does Berberis nepalensis, Lonicera diversifolia, Myrica sapida, and many others.
Were it necessary, I might now show that there is a most striking resemblance between the geology of the two countries as well as in their vegetable productions. In both the black and green tea countries to which I have alluded, clay-slate is most abundant. But enough has been advanced to prove how well many parts of the Himalayas are adapted for the cultivation of tea; besides, the flourishing condition of many of the plantations is, after all, the best proof, and puts the matter beyond all doubt.
4. Suggestions. Having shown that tea can be grown in the Himalayas, and that it would produce a valuable and remunerative crop, the next great object appears to be the production of superior tea, by means of fine varieties and improved cultivation. It was well known that a variety of the tea-plant existed in the southern parts of China from which inferior teas only were made. That, being more easily procured than the fine northern varieties, from which the great mass of the best teas are made, was the variety originally sent to India. From it all those in the Government plantations have sprung.
It was to remedy this, and to obtain the best varieties from those districts which furnish the trees of commerce, that the Honourable Court of Directors sent me to China in 1848. Another object was to obtain some good manufacturers and implements from the same districts. As the result of this mission, nearly twenty thousand plants from the best black and green tea countries of Central China have been introduced to the Himalayas. Six first-rate manufacturers, two lead-men, and a large supply of implements from the celebrated Hwuy-chow districts were also brought and safely located on the Government plantations in the hills.
A great step has thus been gained towards the objects in view. Much, however, remains still to be done. The new China plants ought to be carefully propagated and distributed over all the plantations; some of them ought also to be given to the Zemindars, and more of these fine varieties might be yearly imported from China.
The Chinese manufacturers, who were obtained some years since from Calcutta or Assam, are, in my opinion, far from being first-rate workmen; indeed, I doubt much if any of them learned their trade in China. They ought to be gradually got rid of and their places supplied by better men, for it is a great pity to teach the natives an inferior method of manipulation. The men brought round by me are first-rate green-tea makers; they can also make black tea, but they have not been in the habit of making so much black as green. They have none of the Canton illiberality or prejudices about them, and are most willing to teach their art to the natives, many of whom will, I have no doubt, soon become excellent tea manufacturers. And the instruction of the natives is one of the chief objects which ought to be kept in view, for the importation of Chinese manipulators at high wages can only be regarded as a temporary measure; ultimately the Himalayan tea must be made by the natives themselves; each native farmer must learn how to make tea as well as how to grow it; he will then make it upon his own premises, as the Chinese do, and the expenses of carriage will be much less than if the green leaves had to be taken to the market.
But as the Zemindars will be able to grow tea long before they are able to make it, it would be prudent in the first instance to offer them a certain sum for green leaves brought to the Government manufactory.
I have pointed out the land most suitable for the cultivation of tea, and shown that such land exists in the Himalayas to an almost unlimited extent. But if the object the Government have in view be the establishment of a company to develop the resources of these hills, as in Assam, I would strongly urge the propriety of concentrating, as much as possible, the various plantations. Sites ought to be chosen which are not too far apart, easy of access, and if possible near rivers; for, no doubt, a considerable portion of the produce would have to be conveyed to the plains or to a seaport.
In my tour amongst the hills I have seen no place so well adapted for a central situation as Almorah or Hawulbaugh. Here the Government has already a large establishment, and tea-lands are abundant in all directions. The climate is healthy, and better suited to an European constitution than most other parts of India. Here plants from nearly all the temperate parts of the world are growing as if they were at home. As examples, I may mention Myrtles, Pomegranates, and Tuberoses from the south of Europe; Dahlias, Potatoes, Aloes, and Yuccas from America; Melianthus major and bulbs from the Cape; the Cypress and Deodar of the Himalayas; and the Lagerstrmias, Loquats, Roses, and Tea of China.
In these days, when tea has become almost a necessary of life in England and her wide-spreading colonies, its production upon a large and cheap scale is an object of no ordinary importance. But to the natives of India themselves the production of this article would be of the greatest value. The poor paharie, or hill peasant, at present has scarcely the common necessaries of life, and certainly none of its luxuries. The common sorts of grain which his lands produce will scarcely pay the carriage to the nearest market-town, far less yield such a profit as will enable him to purchase even a few of the necessary and simple luxuries of life. A common blanket has to serve him for his covering by day and for his bed at night, while his dwelling-house is a mere mud-hut, capable of affording but little shelter from the inclemency of the weather. If part of these lands produced tea, he would then have a healthy beverage to drink, besides a commodity which would be of great value in the market. Being of small bulk compared with its value, the expense of carriage would be trifling, and he would have the means of making himself and his family more comfortable and more happy.
Were such results doubtful, we have only to look across the frontiers of India into China. Here we find tea one of the necessaries of life in the strictest sense of the word. A Chinese never drinks cold water, which he abhors, and considers unhealthy. Tea is his favourite beverage from morning until night; not what we call tea, mixed with milk and sugar, but the essence of the herb itself drawn out in pure water. Those acquainted with the habits of this people can scarcely conceive the idea of the Chinese existing, were they deprived of the tea-plant; and I am sure that the extensive use of this beverage adds much to the health and comfort of the great body of the people.
The people of India are not unlike the Chinese in many of their habits. The poor of both countries eat sparingly of animal food, and rice with other grains and vegetables form the staple articles on which they live; this being the case, it is not at all unlikely the Indian will soon acquire a habit which is so universal in China. But in order to enable him to drink tea, it must be produced at a cheap rate; he cannot afford to pay at the rate of four or six shillings a pound. It must be furnished to him at four pence or six pence instead, and this can easily be done, but only on his own hills. If this is accomplished, and I see no reason why it should not be, a boon will have been conferred upon the people of India of no common kind, and one which an enlightened and liberal Government may well be proud of conferring upon its subjects.
But while the cultivation of the tea-plant is of the first importance, there are in China other productions of the vegetable kingdom which ought not to be overlooked, and which, if introduced, would add greatly to the comforts of the people of India. There is a fruit-tree, called by botanists Myrica sapida, which is found growing wild on the Himalayas. A very fine variety of this fruit is cultivated in China, and is as superior to the Indian one as the apple is to the crab. It is much esteemed by the Chinese, and would be a great luxury to the inhabitants of northern India. Our English cherries, chestnuts, and the finer sorts of pears, ought also by all means to be introduced to the Himalayas. They would grow in the climate of Almorah as well as they do at home.
The varieties of the bamboo found in the north of China would be of great value in the Himalayas, more particularly a fine large clean-stemmed kind common about the temples in the tea-districts. Something of this kind appears to be much wanted in the provinces of Gurhwal and Kumaon.2
When I reached Nainee Tal I was kindly received by Captain Jones, who offered me quarters in his house until my dβk was laid for Meerut, to which I was now bound on my way to Calcutta and England. Nainee Tal is one of the prettiest stations I have seen in the Himalayas. Its romantic-looking lake is almost surrounded by richly wooded mountains. A fine broad road has been made round the edge of the lake, and the houses of the inhabitants are scattered on the sloping sides of the hills. Schooners and pleasure-boats are seen daily sailing on the lake, and when viewed from a high elevation have a curious and striking appearance. From one of the positions where I stood I could see the lake, and through an opening in the hills the far-spreading plains of India. Heavy masses of clouds were hanging over the plains far below the level of the lake, and the little vessels were actually sailing about at an elevation higher than the clouds!
On the 28th of July I left Nainee Tal and took the road for the plains. Mr. Batten accompanied me down the hill as far as a little garden which we had agreed to visit, where we found breakfast awaiting us. The scenery here is so wild and striking as to baffle all attempts at description. Behind us were mountains of all heights, rent and broken up into every variety of form, while before us lay the plains of India stretching away as far as the eye could reach without a mountain or a hill to obstruct the view.
Mr. Batten now left me and returned to his home amongst the mountains, while I pursued my homeward journey. I visited the well-known cities of Delhi and Agra on my route, and arrived at Calcutta on the 29th of August, when I took up my quarters with Dr. Falconer, in the botanic garden, until the mail-steamer was ready to receive her passengers for England.
On the 5th of September I had the pleasure of seeing the Victoria regia flower for the first time in India. It was growing luxuriantly in one of the ponds in the botanic garden, and no doubt will soon be a great ornament to Indian gardens. It will soon reign as the queen of flowers in every land, and, like our beloved sovereign whose name it bears, the sun will never set on its dominions.
1 The crops of this district, such as rice, mundooa, and other grains, are so plentiful and cheap as scarcely to pay the carriage to the nearest market town, much less to the plains. In Almorah a maund of rice or mundooa sells for something less than a rupee, of barley for eight annas, and of wheat for a rupee.
2 The observations, in this chapter, upon tea-cultivation in India, are taken, by permission of the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company, from a Report which I had the honour to make to the Indian Government.