HOME AWAY FROM HOME

 

We returned to the US a week ago. Two months of exploring, learning and being loved on by family was not easy to leave behind. Our dream for Sachai has grown and evolved very significantly over the past couple months of being exposed to the tea industry and visiting places and people involved  in the industry.

We started the tea company by making homemade chai (tea and spices) concentrate that can be served at both cafes and at home. After visiting tea farms (Nilgiri’s and Darjeeling) and making contacts with estates and smaller farms we now would like to source (specialty) loose leaf tea wholesale to Cafe’s, organizations, work places (businesses) etc. Specialty tea is produced from hand plucked tea leaves, it takes hundreds of kilograms of freshly cut tea leaves to produce a small bag (10 ounces) of specialty tea. It is produced through hard labor and is so worth all the effort that goes into it. It requires no flavoring or blending, its authentic flavor is best tasted when steeped and consumed without adding milk or sugar.

The vision for Sachai tea company has come a long way and we hope that it will grow into many things and expand as we try to penetrate this industry. Our time in India revealed the abusive system that exists in the industry, like any industry that has a high demand and people around who are vulnerable, the tea industry for a couple centuries has taken over lands and peoples lives in India. Tea workers are the labor force behind high quality tea and yet they are the least recognized or rewarded. The name and reward is claimed by the corporation and the estates.

As Sachai pursues wholesale/sourcing specialty tea it is also paving the path for us to live in a tea region in india and bring the kingdom of God to this industry. The solution to decades of oppression and spiritual darkness in these regions is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God must come and penetrate peoples lives, their work and the oppressive industry that they work in.

India is  our home and we are praying that we will be able to return soon to live and serve there. 

Some prayer requests for Sachai:

We will be able to build relationships with our connections and follow up with each of them.

Whole sale accounts with cafes, businesses to sell loose leaf tea.

Figure out a way to bottle and ship Chai concentrate efficiently.

Initial financial investment into the business, website, advertisement.

Continued passion for workers in the tea industry.

Clint Denson
PICTURES FROM NILGIRI
Tea tasting (Specialty tea) at Glendale tea estate in Nilgiri (South India)

Tea tasting (Specialty tea) at Glendale tea estate in Nilgiri (South India)

Sunrise at Glendale Tea Estate

Sunrise at Glendale Tea Estate

Workers on the Estate. We got to speak with these very kind workers and found out a lot about their life on the estate. Glendale estate is a large corporation and has facilities and labor practices that are better than most tea gardens in the country. The workers here are paid around 3 dollars a day.

Workers on the Estate. We got to speak with these very kind workers and found out a lot about their life on the estate. Glendale estate is a large corporation and has facilities and labor practices that are better than most tea gardens in the country. The workers here are paid around 3 dollars a day.

Freshly plucked tea before it is sent to the factory for processing.

Freshly plucked tea before it is sent to the factory for processing.

Clint Denson
SILIGURI/ DARJEELING TEA GARDEN VISIT (DAY 2)
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Clint and I landed in Siliguri yesterday. Siliguri is a major junction point for trade and travel. It is an hour away from the Nepal border and around 3 hours away from the China border and 45 minutes from Bangladesh. Our host family picked us up from the airport and even before we got to the main road from airport we began to see tea gardens every where.

Our host family have been very hospitable and have welcomed us into their lives. We went to a bible study that the wife has with women from a neighboring tea garden yesterday evening and got to meet another couple who are serving in this area. Our host family is involved in several things like reaching tea garden workers, business people and national believers. They are also developing business strategies to support their work and plans.

We spent sometime this morning talking about Sachai and our goals. We would like build Sachai into a premium/specialty tea company that sells high quality tea both whole sale to cafes/organizations/churches etc and retail to tea connoisseurs/lovers. Specialty tea is the top shoot (two leaves and a bud, sometimes just the bud), it is highly flavorful and offers the best aromatic cup compared to the rest of the tea leaves. Plucking this tea requires hard and skilled labor that is often under paid and abused in these regions. Compared to the Nilgiri tea region that we (Clint, Rebecca and Erica) visited in March, Darjeeling and Siliguri area tea workers are paid much lesser sometimes even just a dollar a day.

We hope to visit some farms during the next few days and see if we can ship some of this specialty tea from farms that have better ethical practices and fair wages. Also we hope to learn more about the exporting process so that one day we can live here and do direct export of tea.

One of the things we talked about this morning with our host family was employing women in sex trafficking around this area to make crafts, tea packaging boxes/bags etc, we could set aside a percentage of the proceeds from selling specialty tea to support these trafficked women and their craft projects. Tonight I am going to visit one of the biggest red light areas in South Asia in this place called Jalpaigiri. There are close to 10,000 women here who work in this red light area. Our host family said that there are some villages around here where you can’t find girls above 6 years of age because they are being shipped out to the sex industry.

Some of our present needs are:

Building a Website and developing our logo.

Building a clientele (Cafes/organizations/churches etc) for specialty tea in the USA.

Finding ways to use women in the red light area to design labels or packaging boxes/bags to retail the tea to customers who want to enjoy premium tea and support these women.

Clint Denson
NILGIRI TEA GARDENS (SOUTH INDIA)
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We spent 3 days (March 23rd-25th) in the Nilgri mountains of Tamil Nadu south India, outside of a town called Coonoor. Through a contact we made in America we were invited to stay on a tea estate 5,000 ft above sea level called Glendale. Glendale is one of the oldest and largest tea estates and factories in south India. In total they have over 1,200 acres of tea and employ around 1,000 workers. What was crazy is that they fully accommodated us free of charge. They let us stay onsite in their guest house, fed us 3 meals a day, gave us a full tour of their factory and let us taste all the teas they produce, some of which sell for $100 per pound.

While meeting the management and even having tea with the director was a privilege, it wasn’t what impacted us the most. It was the time we spent among the tea pickers that gave rise to compassion and vision. On our first day at the estate Rebecca started talking with some of the women who pluck the tea, we met one special lady named Amudama. Amudama asked her what we thought about the tea estate and Rebecca told her “we think we are in paradise” to which Amudama replied “that’s funny because we all can’t wait to get out of here”. You see Amudama is 54 years old and is a 5th generation tea plucker. She retires at 60 and plans to move with her husband to a small plot of land they’ve been saving all of their life to buy. She works from 8-5 every day, six days a week and is paid around $3.00 a day. On a good day she says the women pluck 100 kgs (220lbs) a day and probably about 80 kgs (176lbs) on average. Now, we are not trying to slander the name of Glendale. It should be noted that Glendale provides education, housing, and medical care to all their workers and their dependents, which most estates do not provide. But let’s also not forget the fact that Glendale’s cheapest tea is being sold for $3.50 per 1 kg. Amudama (1 of around 300 tea pluckers) picks 100kgs a day and gets paid $3.00 and the final product sells at her daily wage per kg.

Like the way of the world, there is a margin between rich and poor, those with opportunity and options and those without and those without are being exploited. We are seeing that even in tea the most effective way dealing with problems like this is using our own privilege to start new Kingdom businesses models with Kingdom principles that challenge the way of the world.

If we really want to impact the world of tea it would be most effectively done by actually working on or owning a tea estate. Which leads into my next request for prayer. Amudama invited us all over to her house for tea and as we sat in her living room/bedroom with idols of the elephant god ganesh all around she and her husband tell us there is neighboring 100 acre tea estate for sale that we should buy. This struck unbridled hope in our hearts that we would be able to work alongside those who would be “greatest in the Kingdom” by their life spent in servitude.

The next day we went and checked out the estate, which is currently running, poorly running that is. It has one manager and 25 tea pluckers. We spoke with the manager who told us the estate was planted with 70% tea and 30% coffee and would probably sale for about 2 million dollars. As hope and reality have dueled over the past few days we are asking God to increase this vision and what it could mean for the poor tea workers of south India who have dreams and hopes that might not include slaving on a tea estate their entire life. And those who also have little to no contact with those who would share Christ and Kingdom life with them. This of course may not be the very estate we should pursue but the vision has certainly been born.

For now we must continue to search well run estates with hints of the Kingdom (which would give us very little contact with the workers, we would be in contact with upper management) all the while hoping to find one that shares the same vision that we do, with the hope of actually living on and running a tea estate one day with direct contact with the poor.

Clint Denson