Friday, February 17, 2012

In Pictures: Student Post:: Our Visit to a Tea Estate in the Nilgiris

The Chamraj factory, built under the British
This past Sunday, on our visit to the Nilgiris, we were fortunate enough to be able to tour the Chamraj Tea Factory and plantation. Lucy Maynard, one of our students, wrote up a paper on her field visit for her business class, and her research from our trip is in italics.
Kandyce holding a cup of tea
Our tour guide, Mr. Hendrickson, shared with us a history of the factory and plantation, we learned about the tea production process and the tea industry in south India. Chamraj is certified fair trade, and we were able to ask questions and hear about why fair trade works for those employed in the tea business all across South India.
The United Nilgiri Tea Estates Company is located in Nilgiris District, Tamil Nadu, at 7920 feet above sea level    
The Nilgiri Tea Company was established in 1922 under British rule, and in 1994 the factory was certified as a Fair Trade Tea Company. It was the first tea company in India to be approached for Fair Trade certification. One dollar per kilo of tea “comes back” to the workers of the Nilgiri Tea Company because of their Fair Trade classification and procedures.

We didn’t know until later in the tour that our group was incredibly fortunate to see the inside of the factory. They typically don’t allow tours, and because of the hard work and connections we have through our partner college, we got in!
The process of making tea at the Nilgiri Tea Company begins with the plucking or harvesting of the tea leaves. All of the moisture is then removed from the tea plants through a process called withering. The tea leaves are then rolled, and after this stage they are fermented, which is an oxidation process using controlled temperature and humidity. The tea leaves are then dried, packaged, and distributed. This type of manufacturing process is referred to as Orthodox, or standard manufacturing.
We got to see the entire process of making tea, from plucking the leaves in the estate in the back yard of the factory to the oxidizing and fermenting process to the sorting of the tea into different grades, from orange pekoe at the top of the ladder to the fannings and dust at the bottom.
Four varieties of Chamraj tea.
We got to see, smell and touch the tea in its various forms, and got to taste several cups throughout our visit!
Alyssa making some purchases in the tea shop.
The Nilgiri Tea Company guarantees fixed and equal wages for both men and women, and it was the first company to offer a pension scheme to its employees that provided employees with ten years of pension pay without the employees having to contribute any money directly to it themselves. This company facilitates and funds an orphanage, hospital, and public school for its employees and their families and the surrounding and greater community as a whole. The Nilgiri Tea Company is an example of social entrepreneurship.
Thanks for reading on our trip to the Nilgiris! We're off to Chennai this weekend, so you can look forward to hearing about our trip to the capital of Tamil Nadu next week.

For more information on Nilgiri tea, click here.

For more information on fair trade, click here.

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