The instant I stepped out of the plane in Dibrugarh, Assam, it smelled like tea. Assam produces about 15% of the tea grown in the world, and everywhere you go, no matter where you turn, you see the beautiful — lush — green buds popping out from every corner. It's easy to fall in love with Assam.
If you’ve had black tea, you’ve probably had Assamese tea. The state of Assam is responsible for just over 1/2 of India’s tea.
Which is, like, a lot. Like, 1338 MILLION kgs a lot.
Thing is, though, Assamese tea estates didn’t get off to a good start. British colonial importers created an industry based on cheap, overworked labor. And even now, hundreds of years later, a worker in an upper Assamese tea garden makes less than $2 a day. More than half of them are women from marginalized backgrounds.
These major tea estates control the market, churning out high-volume (and low-quality) tea without worker protections or decent wages. Claiming they simply “can’t” afford to pay folks better or use less pesticide.
Thankfully, there are Assamese folks doing things right. Enter Rajen and June Baruah, of Assam Heritage Tea estate.
Rajen is a former employee of a large tea company that was acquired many other large tea companies. He retired a few years back, and during his short retirement, he reflected on how he could make tea better. A true connoisseur, Raj applied his vast institutional and cultural knowledge to create Assam Heritage Tea with his wife, June, and their sons.
But Rajen doesn’t just create the best-tasting Assam teas. He talks to the tea plants, looks after the soil, and treats every living object in the supply chain as if it were his best friend. It’s simple, really — a happy ecosystem (land, plant, and farmer) creates happy tea.
Raj told me a story about how he used to ride his bike along the tea estates in the mornings: “The sun was rising and all the plants were waking up and turning towards the sun.” I like to picture Rajen waving and laughing with tea shrubs when I get stressed. It’s a nice visual, no?
In a region where tea workers struggle to profit from their labors, Assam Heritage Tea buys fresh tea leaf from small growers at a premium and processes every leaf by hand. Their teas are truly “all-natural,” cultivated with chemical-free and pesticide-free methods.
This is direct trade tea. We know June and Rajen, and we buy directly from them to cut out middle men and ensure that this premium pay continues.
We also source Assam Heritage tea for our special Mercy Health blend, Catherine's Tea. Look for Catherine's at St. Louis' Mercy cafes and gift shops!
For more information on direct-sourcing and ethical commodity trading, please reach out to Founder Lisa Govro: firstname.lastname@example.org