Back in London, towards the end of the C18th, the Board of Directors of The East India Company had begun to worry about the cost of importing so much Chinese tea. They also realised by now that their well-established, but illicit sale of opium to the Chinese, was beginning to make the Chinese emperor rather angry, a situation that led to the first of the Opium Wars between the two countries in 1840. So, it seemed like a good time to start exploring the idea of growing tea somewhere else – perhaps in British-owned India.
The discovery that the tea plant was indigenous to Assam in North East India led the Company to set up trial tea gardens there to experiment with the manufacture of both black and green tea. Discovering that the black tea they made was better than the green, the first batch of black Assam tea was shipped from Calcutta in May 1838. It reached London in the November and was sold at the London tea auctions in January 1839. This was a turning point both for the Company and for tea, and production soon expanded into Darjeeling, the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India, Ceylon and then, at the turn of the C20th, into East Africa.