SILIGURI/ DARJEELING TEA GARDEN VISIT (DAY 2)
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.