A More Virtuous Tea


Tea pickers stand in the scorching sun, hand-plucking the tea leaves for about eight hours a day. Furkan Latif Khan/NPR

Thanks to Julie McCarthy and her colleagues at National Public Radio (USA) for this story posted from our old neighborhood:

Tea Farmer In India Leads Charge For Organic, Evades The Charge Of Elephants


Tenzing Bodosa is a tea grower and a staunch practitioner of organic farming. He stands in his small tea estate beside the nature preserve he has cultivated.
Furkan Latif Khan/NPR

As you clutch a cuppa for a bit of winter warmth, spare a moment to consider the elaborate process that goes into producing that seemingly simple sip of tea.

In the biggest tea-growing region in India, the hazards alone range from red spider mites to herds of wild elephants.

Grower Tenzing Bodosa, a native of Assam, fights the former and unusually invites the latter.

From the large Bodo tribe and widely known by his first name, Tenzing stands beside the vermilion flames of a brick oven that provides the heat for a drying contraption erected in his backyard.

Here, tea leaves plucked from Tenzing’s small estate are fermented, dried and sorted. “Next comes packaging and marketing,” he says with the same wide smile that adorns his tea label.

Tenzing is a marketer’s dream. He exudes a passion for tea, gratitude toward his supporters, and an affability that attracts guidance. Visitors from as far away as Europe have turned up at his door, helping him learn social media and new farming methods.

Tenzing sports a T-shirt bearing the logo of a New York importer of upscale teas called “In Pursuit of Tea.”Founder Sebastian Beckwith says he was impressed with samples of Tenzing’s tea, and in 2016, visited Assam to see his small operation.

A one-day inspection was all it took: The American tea aficionado ordered 500 kilos on the spot, fetching 500,000 rupees (about $8,000), a windfall for Tenzing. “It’s big money for me. For here, this is big money,” Tenzing remarks.

Beckwith also taught him how to taste teas, including one that Tenzing excitedly says “has been grown in China for 2,000 years.” Beckwith says Tenzing’s tea, “with notes of black currant,” is one of their bestsellers.

He puts a premium on the way that Tenzing produces his traditional tea without synthetic pesticices, saying it’s clean and tastes good.

“That’s ultimately going to make us all healthier … He is someone who is succeeding on a very small level, and I think it’s great,” Beckwith says.

Tenzing’s small 13-hectare (about 32 acres) tea estate sits in the folds of the Himalayas, and borders the mountain kingdom of Bhutan to the north. By late morning, some 30 workers have been plucking leaves for hours. Their tightly pruned shrubs are the symbol of Assam, the region that produces half of India’s tea each year…


Read the whole story here.

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