The history of tea culture in Iran started at the end of the 15th century. Before that coffee was the main beverage in Iran. However, most of the coffee-producing countries were located far from Iran, making shipping very difficult and expensive. With a major tea-producing country, China, located on a nearby trading path, the "Silk Road", and the shipping of tea much easier, tea became popular in Iran. As a result, the demand for tea grew, and more tea needed to be imported to match Iran's consumption.
The Iranians failed in their first attempt to cultivate tea in their own country in 1882 with seeds from India. In 1899 Prince Mohammad Mirza known as "Kashef Al Saltaneh" born in Torbat-e Haydariyeh, imported Indian tea and started its cultivation in Lahijan. Kashef, who was the first mayor of Tehran and an Iranian ambassador to India under British rule, knew that the British would not allow him to learn about the secrets of tea production, as it was their biggest business in India at the time. So being fluent in French, the prince pretended to be a French laborer and started to work in the tea plantations and factories to learn how to produce tea. Ultimately his plan was to take back some samples of tea seeds to Iran to cultivate. He was successful in this endeavor only because of his diplomatic immunity which stopped the British from searching for his secretly stashed sample.
At the time, Kashef brought 3000 saplings into his country from the northern part of India, Kangra. He started the cultivation in Gilan, south of the Caspian Sea. The climate there was well suited for tea cultivation, and the tea industry quickly expanded in Gilan and Mazanderan regions. Kashef's mausoleum in Lahijan is now part of "Iran's National Tea Museum". In 1934 the first modern-style tea factory was built. Now there are up to 107 tea factories and a total of 32,000 hectares of tea farms. Most of the farms are located on the hillsides of Iran like the farms in Darjeeling. These farms produce an orthodox style of black tea. It is so delicious without adding any milk or sugar. The total production of black tea in 2009 was approximately 60,000 tons.
Lahijan is a city near the Caspian Sea and the capital of Lahijan County, Gilan Province, Iran. At the 2016 census, its population was 167,544 in 58,378 families. Lahijan has both traditional and modern architecture. The city, which has an Iranian-European urban structure, lies on the northern slope of the Alborz Mountains. The city is basically founded on the sediments remaining from big rivers in Gilan, including the Sefid-Rud (White River).
The word "Lahijan" is originated from the economic stance the city had during its historical periods. "Lāhijan" is formed by two words: Lah, which means silk, and "Jan or Gan" which means a place where something is done. Therefore, by compounding these two parts, the word "Lahijan or Lahigan" was made, which means "a place to obtain silk fiber". Historically, Lahijan is the first city in Iran to have tea plantations. With its mild weather, soil quality, and fresh spring water, Lahijan stands to have the largest area of tea cultivation in Iran.
In ancient times, the Gilan region was divided into the 'Caspian' and 'Golha' (flowers) sub-regions. Before Iran's provincial divisions into the current state, Gilan was divided by the Sefid-Rud River into eastern and western regions. The river's eastern side was called Bieh-pish and the western side was Bieh-pas. At some point in time, Lahijan became the capital of Bieh-pish. This region has been one of Iran's major silk-producing centers, as well as the country's first area for the tea-plantation. The foundation of Lahijan is attributed to 'Lahij Ebne Saam'. Oljaito, the Mongol ruler conquered Lahijan in 705 AH. Then Amir Teimoor attacked this region. Finally, Shah Abbas I defeated "Khan Ahmad' and thereafter the Safavid governors ruled this city. Amongst the unpleasant events in the history of this city were the outbreak of plague in 703 AH., the conflagration of 850 AH., and the conquest of it by the Russian army in 1725 AD. Lahijan was one of the main bases of the Jungle Movement.