Though consumption of tea in India has been mentioned in the Ramayana (750-500 BCE) , commercial production of tea did not begin until the arrival of the British East India Company. The Britishers planted tea on large tracts of land all along the Shivaliks and Lesser Himalaya but they did not succeeded beyond the Darjeeling region because of several geographical, economic and cultural reasons.
The geographical factors which favoured tea cultivation in Darjeeling are- cool climate,deep clayey soil permitting terrace farming,year round rains,low gradient,etc .
While cool climate and low gradient were also available in some areas of western Shivaliks but absence of deep clayey soil and lack of year round rains led to the failure of tea plantations there.
Moreover economic factors like presence of cheap labour through bonded labourers permitted by Plantation Act which brought labours to work on plantations from Bihar and Bengal also favoured the spread of tea cultivation in Darjeeling. Also relatively better transport facilities and proximity to ports in Bengal also favoured tea plantations in Darjeeling .
Moreover cultural factors such as the presence of large indigenous and tribal population in other areas such as Himachal Pradesh, Doon valley etc. reduced the scope of commercial activities like tea plantation.
However after independence several steps have been taken to increase the area under tea cultivation especially in the Lesser and Shivalik Himalayas. Providing Geographical Indication status to Kangra tea in 2005 can be cited as one such step.