Charles Alexander Bruce

1793 - 1871

Father of the Indian tea industry. Born in Edinburgh, the younger brother of Robert Bruce (1789 - 1824) who discovered tea plants growing in Assam. Bruce joined the navy and fought against the French during the Napoleonic wars. He came to India as an employee of the East India Company, commanding a flotilla of river gun-boats in a conflict against the Burmese. In 1835, he was asked to establish tea plantations in India, to break the Chinese monopoly, but rather than using the native plants discovered by his brother he was instructed to bring plants from China which proved problematic. However Bruce persevered and on his own initiative established plantations based on the indigenous sub-species (Camellia assamica), which proved highly successful and brought us the Assam tea we know today. The first Assam tea was auctioned in London in 1839. In 1871, he was awarded a medal the Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (later the Royal Society of Arts) for his work in cultivating and producing tea in Assam. He seems also to have taken a moral stance against the opium trade, a major source of profit for the East Indian Company in which his brother was involved, and went some way to replacing the cultivation of opium with tea. In their old age, Bruce and his wife Elizabeth undertook missionary work helping the poor of the area.

Bruce is buried near his brother in the Christian Cemetery in Tezpur.

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