Small Tea Growers Demand For Their Rights On International Tea Day

While 5000 tea workers assemble at Raja Bhat Tea Estate in Kalchini district of West Bengal today 15.12.2016 to observe the 11th International Tea Day, we at Rangsaa stand with all the Small Tea Growers (STG)  in India and Center for Education and Communication (CEC) to bring forward the problems and demands of small tea growers across India. This is our attempt to contribute to the well-being of the people behind our cups of tea and highlight their issues to all our readers and the world. Next cup of tea you take, think of tea plantation workers, their condition and their rights. Together we can make a difference.

The petition, which highlights the demands of small tea growers of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, is signed today and submitted to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. Following is the memorandum submitted.

Small Grower Statement

We, the representatives of following Primary Producer Societies or collectives of small tea growers in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are celebrating December 15, the international tea day with increased sense of self worth.

We are proud to be the producers of Tea, a health drink. India is the second largest producer of this health drink in the world. We, the small farmers, though having on an average less than 2 acres of land, are proud to contribute 33.85% in 2015-16 of tea produced in India. That this is a recent phenomenon could be gauged from the fact that in 1999 small growers’ contribution was only 1.16% of the total production. In 2015-16, of the total production of 1233.14 million kgs of tea, small sector contributed 417.42 million kgs based on an aggregation of tea manufactured by 568 bought leaf factories. Our contribution to the total tea production in India must be higher if our supply to estate factories are also considered.

Small farmer’s production is almost twice the quantity of tea exported by India. During the financial year 2015-16 India exported 232.92 million kgs valued at Rs. 4493.10 crore. We are feeling proud of the fact that we contribute not only to meet the growing domestic demand for tea in India but also to obtain valuable foreign exchange.

Small sector contributes to employment generation in the rural areas, uplifting hundreds of thousands of people from poverty and it prevents distress migration. Tea cultivation is respectful self-employment for thousands of young people, and in all tea growing areas; and it also absorbs as workers a large number of unemployed from the large tea estates.

For small growers, land is not a commodity, but a source of life and livelihood, integral to our existence. Overcoming compulsions from chemical and fertiliser companies, increasing number of farmers are following responsible agricultural practices, moving towards chemical free and organic agriculture.

We want Central and State governments to recognise our contribution to the nation, its economy, ecology and to the people of India and of the World.

  1. We strongly urge the Government of India to ensure that we get a fair price for our produce by
    a. strong and participatory enforcement of Price Sharing formula
    b. ensuring better price for better quality of leaf supplied
    c. making available certified organic manure and pesticides

  2. We urge the Government of India not to delay the declared subsidies to small growers including leaf collection shed, leaf weighing machine, leaf carrying bag, pruning machine, plucking machine, irrigation equipments and computer.

  3. We urge the Government of India to extend crop insurance scheme to all small growers without any delay.

  4.  We urge the Government of India to implement universal social security and health coverage for the workers working in our gardens.

  5. We urge the Government of India to encourage collectives of small growers having 100 acres of land, quality leaves, and compliance to Plant Protection Code to set up factories to manufacture chemical free / organic green specialty tea and facilitate their marketing ventures by
    a. easing steps to set up such units, especially, approvals for land, building and machinery
    b. easing steps to obtain other necessary permits and licences including electricity, pollution, sales tax etc
    c. ensuring easy access to credit from NABARD, SFAC and other public as well as private financial institutions
    d. extending financial assistance as is available for big factories

On the occasion of 11th International Tea Day, we stand united with self-respect for responsible, sustainable and remunerative tea cultivation and assure everyone quality tea.

Name of the Person Signing, Name of the PPS, Name of the District

TEA TALES – Silver Yin Hu Tea Wares by Master Zhao

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In olden times, Chinese royalties used to collect tea wares which commemorated important occasions. These exquisite pieces were cherished family possessions and were passed down through generations. The traditional techniques and methods used in those days in creating these silver tea wares have left a legacy and the value of this art form has remained unchanged.

Master Zhao is a rare window to the past, culture and heritage of China, which he displays intricately with versatility in the 999 silver Yin Hu teapots and tea wares he crafts. The use of metals such as silver, gold etc as principal components to craft tea wares reflect the aristocratic lifestyle, and the cultural and philosophical ideas of the times. Master Zhao’s masterpieces range between $500 – $4000 and are recommended for serious art lovers and collectors. I would compare these pieces of art to the rare diamonds we can find, for if they weren’t unique they would be free as pebbles and a dime a dozen. 

Brand – Your silver, your story
Website – Amazon
Facebook – Silver Teapot

International Tea Day – A Day with a Purpose

Tea DayIn a country like India, with more than 840k tonnes of tea consumption every year, many might wonder about the significance of International Tea Day.

To begin with, the first ever International Tea Day was celebrated in New Delhi, on 15th December 2005. Although, the idea of establishment of International Tea Day existed for many years, the first decisions were made in 2005 after the World Social Forum in Mumbai. And since then, ITD has officially been observed on 15 December every year, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the impact of an industry, that millions of farmers and workers across the globe depend on for their livelihood.

International Tea Day is observed in many tea producing countries like India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Uganda and Tanzania. The day surely celebrates tea but there’s lot more to it – there’s a purpose and agenda. The day aims to spread awareness about the tea producing countries, the tea growers, their communities and the trade of tea. It draws global attention of governments and citizens to the problems of tea industry, tea production and the impact of the global tea trade on the workers.

The global tea industry is facing many challenges that require immediate attention and must be faced together. Some of these include undervaluing of tea as a commodity, effects of climate-change on tea production & quality, gender equality and very low wages of the tea workers. Thankfully, on the brighter side, there are global organisations like Fairtrade and Ethical Tea Partnership that are working together to address these problems and make the future of the tea industry more sustainable.

We believe if we are well aware about the tea that we drinking, we can demand improved situations and salaries within the industry. We also have the option of choosing fair trade and organic. When we purchase organic tea, we support a healthier living and better salaries for hundreds of tea pickers worldwide.

Today, we extend our gratitude and appreciation to everyone who is involved in the journey of the tea leaves, from garden to a tea cup. We thank everyone who brings the finest tea to brew our bliss!

Dim Sum – A Culinary Art Inspired by Tea

yum cha tea

We all love dim sums but here’s a fun fact about dim sum which not many are aware of. In Cantonese the word dim sum means to drink tea“. If you read about the history of this traditional culinary specialty from China, you’ll smell the tea brewing!

The term dim sum literally means ‘yum cha’ or ‘tea tasting’. By analogy, yum cha is also referred to as morning or afternoon tea. Having tea with dim sum is a unique culinary tradition which began thousands of years ago in China. The advent of the ancient silk road connected China with traders from Europe and India. In response to the increasing number of diverse travellers passing through, local teahouses sprang up along side the silk road to serve travellers with a place to rest and enjoy a fresh cup of tea. The earliest tea houses originated in Guangzhou.

It was around the same time, when tea was discovered to aid in digestion for it’s herbal properties. So, teahouse owners began offering bite-sized snacks as an accompaniment, and thus a unique culinary art form was borndim sum. And since then these small bites have been a main stay of everyday life throughout China.

Today, the dim sum enjoyed thousands of years ago has changed to reflect other cultures. Each country around the world enjoys this specialty treat in it’s own way. Dim sum has evolved from a relaxing roadside snack to a meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night. But the ethos behind yum cha and dim sum has remained unchanged over the years.

This long withstanding tradition of serving dim sum and tea has become a ritual, which acts to promote a sense of togetherness, encouraging ideas and conversation over a simple cup of tea. And that’s precisely what the point of tea is.

Mungyeong Traditional Tea Bowl Festival, Korea

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The warmer season sees a host of spring festivals in Korea and one such reveling festival is the Mungyeong Traditional Chasbal Festival, popularly called The Korean Tea Bowl festival.

For centuries, Korean pottery has been regarded as one of the most traditional, and best revelations of artistic talent worldwide.The Chasabal (tea bowl) festival is a beautiful blend of ancient traditions and techniques that are culturally driven by harmony of clay, fire and wind. The festival recently marked it’s 17th year (May 1- May 10), with this year’s theme – “the tradition contained in the tea pottery, the deep echo!”

The festival venue, Mungyeong, is a beautiful village near an ancient road through a mountain pass, built during the Joseon Dynasty (15th century). The village is a renowned pottery-producing center with over 900 years of history. It also features Mangdaengi, the oldest kiln in Korea. Home to nation’s leading ceramic masters, the festival, since it’s beginning in 1999, is a profound medium to promote Korea’s customary tea bowls or “Chasabal”, and retain Mungyeong’s identity as the birthplace of traditional ceramics and tea culture.

Mungyeong has long had a flourishing ceramics industry owing to an abundant supply of sandy soil and firewood. This annual festival offers visitors an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for the unassuming beauty of ‘Chasabal’ and learn the traditional time-honored craft from region’s best Chasabal masters through many hands-on experience programs.

The most enriching experiences at the festival is the Korean traditional tea ceremony called Darye. At the ceremony people wearing Hanbok, traditional Korean costume, brew and serve tea in accordance with traditional etiquette. Some of the teas enjoyed during the ceremony are Omija (five-taste) tea, Dandelion tea, Green tea and lotus leaf tea. Tea is generally enjoyed with Tteoktraditional Korean rice cakes. The omija tea comes highly recommended, as it is a specialty of the Mungyeong region. Visitors can also sample Makgeolli (traditional rice wine) and rice cakes made with omija.

The festival hosts many thematic events including – the International Exchange Exhibition for Chasabal, the Excellent Mungyeong Traditional Ceramic Ware Exhibition, the National Grand Chasabal Contest and many cultural performances. Besides these elevating programs, there are many leisure sports like paragliding, hiking, spa and beautiful accommodations for visitors to relax, making Mungyeong one of the best destination for family trip in Korea.

The 2015 Mungyeong Chasabal (Tea Bowl) Festival ended with more than 230,000 total visitors.

Chinese New Year – Celebrations & TEA Traditions

chinese new Year

“Gung Hay Fat Choy.” Translation: “Best wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year.”

The Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year or the Chinese Spring Festival commences from today. It brings forth the year of the majestic goat, promising prosperity and hope. It is the beautiful time of the year, when traditional customs are followed and lots of Tea related ceremonies are practised. Homes are purified and decorated with charms to invite fortune, gifts are exchanged, Tea ceremonies are carried out and evenings are welcomed with fireworks and lots of delicacies. It is a common practise to pay respect at the temples or shrines, which also sometimes hold festivals and dance performances.

Tea has been a great inspiration and my motivation for learning and appreciating the Chinese heritage, where it is respected as an elixir for spiritual consciousness. In China, the diversity of practises and rituals in context to Tea, performed during the new year festivities, varies from regions based on their own heritage and custom. A popular practise is of brewing the traditional Pu-erh (one of my favorite tea), Ti Kuan Yin Oolong or Black Tea, which is served to the eldest member of the family and on to the youngest. Choosing a fine variety of Tea is essential to the ritual. Prayers and blessings are passed down from the elders of the family to the youngest, with every cup of tea served. The Tray of Togetherness, also called the box of prosperity is served with Tea. This is a wonderful treat of assorted sweets and is customarily shared with family and friends present at the ceremony, to bring the sweetness in one`s life.

If one travels to Southern China, the ritual is conducted by offering three cups of tea. Each cup of tea holds a meaning in this ceremony. The first cup is a ‘Sweet Tea’, for sweetness in life during the year, brewed with crust glutinous rice and sugar.  The second cup is a ‘Smoked Bean Tea’, which brings harmony. It is a blend of tea leaves, smoked green beans, shredded carrot, orange peels, perilla seeds and sesame seeds. The last cup of Green Tea is offered after a meal and this concludes the Tea ceremony. The ceremonies are not simply customary traditions but also provide a sense of togetherness and veneration, of the rich heritage of the Chinese.

The Lantern festival draws the fifteen days of this grand Lunar new year festivities to an end, with sea of vibrant colorful lanterns, with messages or prayers of love, fortune and happiness for the heavens above. It is truly said, when a cup of tea is revered, brewed and shared with people, with lots of love, a huge ounce of hope and with a dollop of promises, it brings a sense of happiness and prosperity. I conclude my blog with wishing you all a very Happy Lunar New Year and may every cup of Tea bring you bliss and fortune.