Blessed Opportuni-Teas: My Travels To India In Search Of Heritage Tea Farms

Kateri Meyer Traveling Tea

By Kateri Meyer/Traveling Tea

When I founded Traveling Tea more than 10 years ago, I hoped some day I would visit farms and meet the hard working people who create fantastic teas. I met Rajen Baruah in 2016 at World Tea Expo when he received an award for helping small farmers find voice and opportunity in the world of commodity tea. My heart was touched as he spoke about helping small farming families craft better tea, and giving them an outlet to sell at sustainable prices. I resolved to use more Heritage teas, and reworked my popular iced tea blend to use leaf from his growers. It is my top selling tea and on the menu at a number of cafes.

In March my dream came true when I traveled to Rajen’s home and factory in Assam India. Heritage Tea Farms is a group of small householder tea farmers, with relationships and good practices cultivated by Rajen for the ultimate purpose of giving back – to the planet, and the Spirit of Tea, which has provided for his family. Due to climate change and aging tea gardens it is becoming challenging to earn sustainable income based on old factory methods.

Rajen worked in tea his entire adult life, and when he faced retirement he wanted to do more for farmers and the Assam tea industry. With his family’s help he runs Heritage Tea Farms and is training his sons to carry on his philosophy: “You love the plant, you care for the soil that nurtures it, and it will care for you.”

Rajen inspires loyalty and a vision for the future – many of his farmers worked for him when he was a manager for large factories. He teaches them how to properly grow tea plants, and to hand-craft teas from their leaf; rather than supplying leaf at low prices to large factories for machine made CTC (cut-tear-curl) and tea-bag quality tea.

My tea country visit started at Jayanta’s vermicompost facility, where he uses earthworms to convert plant waste and cow dung into rich, vibrant compost to feed the soil in their gardens. I met farmers, tea pluckers and tea makers, and visited lush gardens full of birds & butterflies. I saw tea made, from start to finish – both at Heritage and a conventional factory; and got my own experience rolling tea leaf – it takes a great deal of time and care to make flavorful hand-crafted tea.

Many large Indian tea factories focus on quantity over quality, using chemicals without adequate protections for workers, and providing barely adequate housing. Some large factories do care and provide for their workers. If the tea you buy is super cheap, you can guess where it probably came from.

Oil and other manufacturing also provide jobs in this area; many young people get education and move away. Heritage strives to provide sustainable income so families can maintain connection to the land and to each other. Our goal is to share more tea from sustainable farms. Please drink and Share only Good Tea.

Kateri Meyer, Traveling Tea,
2707 Sutton Blvd Maplewood, MO 63143.
314-647-8832, www.traveling-tea.com