Aspects of Tea Production
When the first tea planters arrived in Assam there were virtually no usable roads The Ahom kings had built an extensive network, but these had almost all been neglected in the anarchy before the British conquest. Many of these roads had been raised above flood on large embankments, and the tea estates were able to rehabilitate short sections for their own use. A trunk road was built through Assam by the government in 186, but otherwise little progress was made before 1880. In many, tea growing areas the estates had to build roads themselves, and hope for a government grant towards the construction. During the rains, a planter might be marooned on his estate for several months.
The railway took many years to extend as far as Assam. In 1862 the line from Calcutta was taken through Kushtis on the Ganges, close to where the country boats had entered the river. This made the first leg of the journey to the Brahmaputra much faster and easier. !879 the railway was continued north to the Tista River, almost to Assam. Two years later it crossed the Assam border, and during the 1880 was extended into the tea districts.
In the early days, lack of good roads, and the dispersed nature of the plantations, meant there was very little socializing among European planters. The Assam company might have half a dozen planters bunched together in one area- and some of these set up the first club in Assam, the Hatti Putti Billiard Club, in 1881- but many of its planters lived on isolated estates many miles from each other. On the smaller estates a planter might have just one colleague (who hopefully was congenial), or else be on his own, many miles from the next plantation. There was almost no social interaction with Assamese. There was other European in Assam- mostly government administrative officers and missionaries- but not many. In general, neither of these groups was too keen on mixing with the planters.
Tea | By Roy Moxham