The history of tea in Nepal is not very long. It was first cultivated in 1863. Ilam tea estate was established in the hill of Ilam district in this year. However tea industry could not grow during Rana regime owing to their conservative economic policy. After the political change of 1950, floor was opened for investment in this industry. As a result, tea industry witnessed an inflow of public and private investment. In 1959, Buddhakaran Tea Estate was established in private sector. Nepal Tea Development Corporation was established in 1966 in public sector to aid the tea sector. The first tea factory was set in Ilam in 1978. Before that tea leaves produced in Nepal used to be sold to factories in Darjeeling, India. Since Nepal Tea Development Corporation was a profit oriented organization, for the further development of tea industry, need of a non-profit public organization is felt and National Tea and Coffee Development Board was formed in 1993. NTCDB is playing both promotional and regulatory role.
According to NTCDB, tea is planted in 16,905 hectares of land in Nepal producing 24,118,274 kg of tea in 2019/20. In the first ten months of the Nepali Fiscal Year 2077/78, tea exports increased from 7756604 kg to 10542430 kg (an increase of around 36percent) while increased in export value of tea have been recorded at around 61 percent from Rs. 1.86 billion to Rs.3.00 billion during the same period (Economic Survey, 2078/79). Nepal tea possesses great export potential with high socio-economic impact. Currently, there are around 218 tea industries in Nepal. Among them 30 orthodox and 38 CTC are in large scale and other 150 processing plants are producing orthodox tea in small scale. Spread through 28 districts, tea industries are mainly concentrated in Ilam, Panchthar and Jhapa Districts of eastern Nepal. In2020/ 2021, Nepal produced 23745.3 ton of tea, of which CTC tea and orthodox tea accounted for 65.92 percent and 34.08 percent respectively. Nepal produces mostly black tea. Green and other verities of tea started to be produced only in recent years. Over the years since 2015, Nepal's tea production remained almost stagnant. However, production level of orthodox tea has gone up, but it is still far behind the target of achieving share of 65 percent in total production as set in the Tea Policy 2000. It is notable that new verities are coming up.
Within 18 decades of its history, consumption of tea spread all over the country and has become common drink to almost all people irrespective of their income, gender, social status etc. Based on balance sheet drawn from production, import and export data it is roughly estimated that 14641 ton of tea was consumed in Nepal in 2021.
In 2021, tea was planted altogether in 16920 ha of land. Area under tea plantation has declined sharply during last two years. Of the total 16920 ha, 9850 ha belong to small farmers. Altogether 14039 small farmers directly engaged in tea sectors in 2021. According to Nepal National Sector Export Strategy-Tea (2017-21), tea sector provides direct employment to 70 thousand people and indirect employment to 30 thousand people. Female employees are more than male. According to survey done in this Study, female accounted for around 60 percent of total employment. The survey findings show that about 90% of tea plucking was done by females while pruning was mostly performed by male members as far as available.