The Brief History of Tea in  Indonesia

Indonesia is currently the seventh largest tea producer in the world. However, because of the lucrative business prospects of palm oil, tea production has declined in recent years. This happens because some tea plantations have been converted into oil palm plantations, while other tea plantations have stopped production to produce vegetables or other more profitable agricultural products.

Despite the decrease in land area, the amount of tea production remains relatively stable. This indicates that the remaining tea plantations are becoming more productive. In fact, tea planting in Indonesia has started since many centuries ago.

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The first time tea brought to Indonesia

According to historical records, tea entered Indonesia in 1684. Tea seeds are from Japan. It was brought to Indonesia for the first time by Andreas Cleyer, a German citizen. Tea seedlings are then grown as an ornamental plant in Jakarta. 10 years later a man named F. Valentin reported seeing a young tea shrub originating in China at the gardens of the Governor-General Champhuys Palace in Jakarta.

An experimental planting of tea on a large scale was conducted by Jacobus Isidorus Loudewijk Levian Jacobson in 1827 in Wanayasa Purwakarta and Raung Banyuwangi, after the previous tea seeds successfully planted in Bogor Botanical Garden. At that time Indonesia was still in Dutch government, under the governor of Van Den Bosch which requires the tea planted by the people by using the policy of forced cultivation. It happened in 1828.

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The first tea cultivation in Indonesia

Tea drinking habits was actually originated from China which later developed into Japan and also Europe. The tea crops come from the border regions of southern China (Yunan), North West Laos, North Thailand, East Burma and Northeast India, which are tropical and subtropical transitional forest vegetation.

The tea plant first entered Indonesia in 1684, in the form of tea seed from Japan brought by a German named Andreas Cleyer, and planted as an ornamental plant in Jakarta. In 1694, a priest named F. Valentijn reported seeing a young tea shrub originating in China grew up in the Palace Garden of Governor-General Champhuys in Jakarta.

Tea from Java was first recorded in Amsterdam in 1835. Assam tea began to enter Indonesia (Java) from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1877, and was planted by R.E. Kerkhoven in Gambung garden, West Java. With the inclusion of Assam tea to Indonesia, gradually Chinese tea plants replaced with Assam tea, and since then also tea plantations in Indonesia growing more widely. In 1910 began to build tea plantations in the area Simalungun, North Sumatra.

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The tea trading during Dutch Colonialism

J.P. Coen conquered Jayakarta and his name was changed to Batavia (Batavieren). Jayakarta dibumiratakan and built a castle that the front of the trench dug. In the back of the warehouse is also surrounded by trenches, iron fences and strong columns. For 8 years the city of Batavia has swelled 3 times. Its construction was completed in 1650. The city of Batavia is actually situated in the Castle field which is also surrounded by walls and cut into pieces by many trenches.

The Dutch Indies government expanded the tea plantations on a large scale. They chose a plateau area because the tea plant can flourish at an altitude of 200 meters above sea level and the forest was deliberately cleared for plantations. The higher the plantation, the resulting tea will be disease-free, such as fungi, smallpox, and withered because of heat.

In Java, most of the tea is grown in Priangan or Wanayasa, Purwakarta, West Java. There were also on the slopes of Mount Raung, East Java, and Central Java and in some areas in Sumatra. They also built the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij branch (usually called NHM a trading, saving, and loan company) in Batavia. NHM is in charge of providing capital or loans to tea plantation owners. The goal is that the resulting tea more and more quality so that exports to other countries increasingly.

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The periodical time of tea history

No matter what, the history of the tea entering Indonesia did not happen in a short period. That is why, we provide the brief explanation of the historical process tea entered to Indonesia.

  • 1684: Andreas Cleyer, a VOC employee, botanist, originally from Germany, brought tea seeds from Japan and planted them as an ornamental plant in Tijgersgracht – Batavia.
  • 1694: A minister named F. Valentijn reported seeing the young tea shrub growing in the Palace Garden of Governor General Champhuys in Batavia (now Jakarta).
  • 1728: The Dutch started trying to grow tea for their own use by using seeds imported from China.
  • 1811: Governor-General Raffles (1811-1816), applying the Landrente system (all state-owned land) the tiller must pay the rent of the land, continued by the Dutch until 1830.
  • 1817: The Netherlands built Land’s Plantentuin Buitenzorg (now Kebon Raya Bogor)
  • 1824:Van Siebold, a Dutch Indies surgeon who had conducted natural research in Japan, promoted a cultivation business with Japanese tea seeds. Tea is grown in Land’s Plantentuin Buitenzorg and introduced to the community.
  • 1826: People began to see tea plants in Bogor area, after tea plant successfully planted to complete the Bogor Botanical Garden
  • 1827: Tea successfully planted in Cisurupan Experimental Garden, Garut, West Java. Then a larger scale experiment was also successfully performed in Wanayasa (Purwakarta) and in Mount Raung (Banyuwangi, East Java).
  • 1828: The success of various experiments was followed up by Jacobus Isidorus Loudewijk Levian Jacobson, a tea expert, by establishing a commercial tea plantation. Governor of Van Den Bosh’s reign, tea became one of the plants that must be planted by the people through the politics of Cultivation (Culture Stetsel).
  • 1830: The application of cultuurstelsel and tea became one of the commodities that must be planted by Indonesian people. The regulation also required the landless people to work for 75 days a year. In practice, all land must be planted with commodities determined by the government and those without land have to work full year in the plantation.
  • 1833: There were 1,700,000 tea tree trunks with a yield of 16,833 pounds.
  • 1835: For the first time tea from Java was exported and as many as 200 chests were auctioned in Amsterdam.
  • 1841: Tea cultivations throughout Java only had about 3,000 smells (2,129 hectares).
  • 1846: Tea cultivations throughout Java are approximately 4,500 smells (3,193 hectares).
  • 1877: Tea seeds of asssamica from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and by R.E. Kerkhoven planted Gambung plantation, West Java. With the inclusion of Assam tea to Indonesia, gradually Chinese tea plants replaced with Assam tea, and since then also tea plantations in Indonesia growing more widely.
  • 1910: The expansion of tea plantations to Sumatra began with the establishment of tea plantations in the Simalungun area. Before World War II extensive tea plantations in Indonesia reached 230 thousand hectares.
  • World War II: More than half of the tea plantations were damaged by the war.
  • 1945s: In the period of independence, the plantation and tea industries were taken over and repaired by the Indonesian government. Although the extent did not reach pre-war conditions but production increased sharply. Now, tea plantations and trade are also conducted by private parties.

All in all, tea production in Indonesia today has been well improved. Almost half of Indonesia’s tea production is exported abroad. Its main export markets are Russia, Britain and Pakistan. It shows that Indonesia is still good as the tea producer of the world. Remember that Indonesia is an agricultural country in Indonesia.