In 1946 the Valle del Cauca´s Secretary of Agriculture received the first plants of tea from Ceylon. Three varieties from the ‘Camellia Sinensis’ arrived: Chinesse, Assam and Intermediate, previously cultivated and acclimatized in Sasaima, Cundinamarca, in the preceding ten years. The introduction of tea in the ‘Valle del Cauca’ is the result of a diversification of crops policy.
The Valle del Cauca´s Secretary of Agriculture asked Mr. Joaquín Llano Gonzalez and his son Mr. Alberto Llano Buenaventura, do planting trials of tea at their farms ‘La Sofia’ and ‘Hacienda Himalaya’, located in the rural area of Bitaco. Mr. Joaquín Llano produced coffee in his farm at 1500 and 1700 meters above sea level and the tea plants were planted at 1800 and 2000 meters above sea level. The sowing was a total success and because of this, Mr. Alberto Llano decided to study this type of crop, where he visited a tea plantation in Cuzco, Peru. Later, he developed the roads and adapted the fields for the crops and, later, our collaborator Juan Gregorio Gutierrez planted the first tea tree.
The forest near by the plantation was not adapted into crop field and at this time, it is the Himalaya Natural Reserve, affiliated to RESNATUR and to National Parks.
In the early 50’s, the first trials for processing artisanal tea took place and it was produces ‘La Sofia’ Tea. Mr. Alberto Llano then decided to undertake and convert his farm into a full scale tea plantation, and plant 45 hectares of tea at Hacienda Himlaya; hurried the purchase machinery specialized for the processing of the tea proceeding from England and constructed the processing factory. During the first decade, the processing plan produced ‘Rolled Tea’, which was introduced into the national commerce in cellophane bags under the ‘Hindú’ brand.
The company company is strengthened
Sales were increasing and Mr. Alberto Llano managed the distribution with John Restrepo y Cía., who introduced the tea in various corners of our country in the 60’s. It also started the filtering bag packaging, and took our customers to drink tea in this new modality. The ‘Hindú’ brand kept seeing both qualities of the tea, rolled and crushed, until the decades of the 70s when Mr. Alberto Llano stopped producing rolled tea because of its low demand, and the noticeable increment of the consumption of tea in the filtering bags.
Two years after Mr. Alberto Llano´s death (1982), Agricola Himalaya was established (1984). Between the years 1983 and 1993, the company counted on the visionary leadership of Alberto Llano Restrepo, who linked up the company with the best processing techniques from India, a country considered to produce the highest quality tea in the world. Alberto Jrn (son) strengthened the plantation and increased it by 6 hectares; he also designed the new processing plant with CTC technology from India; and started the new sowings, which is a very important chapter in the company: the herbal teas, and in his memory, conformed many projects that the company still develop to this day. After his death in 1994, the company started exporting to the United States and other Latin American markets.
The company has had a gradual growth under the management of Andrés Velasco who started in 2008 with the conviction to consolidate the leadership of the brand by portfolio diversification.
One of the most important commitments is the sustainable farming; which lead to the creation of our new specialty tea brand ‘Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea’. This new product which has been successfully introduced in the national and international markets; it has a diverse and extend portfolio, which is based on rolled or loose black or green tea, after this the company made an investment in a new processing factory with the most up to date technology from India, specialized in production in this category.
This new line will solidify the social and environmental leadership of the company, because its special teas, are based in Bitaco’s origins and depend on the ecosystem and qualified labour. Today, Agricola Himalaya has the only productive tea plantation in Colombia, 55 hectares and plans to grow another 30 hectares in the next 10 years, because international experts have recognized ‘Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea’ as a world high quality tea.