“Darjeeling’s tea industry is in the midst of what most connoisseurs and market watchers would consider to be a revival, driven in part by fair trade,” said Sarah Besky, assistant professor of anthropology and natural resources and environment, at the University of Michigan.
In a university statement, Besky said the most-prized first-flush tea leaves–designated SFTGFOP, meaning “Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe”–sell for more than USD60 for eight ounces.
The field workers who pick the delicate leaves earn just over a dollar for a full day’s work, she said.
“But ironically, fair trade and other programs that purport to provide justice to plantation workers in the age of global ‘ethical consumption’ are not having much effect in providing justice to the tea pluckers, who are mainly Indian Nepali, or Gorkha, women,” she said.
“Women in Darjeeling are keenly aware of the irony that they produce some of the world’s most expensive tea yet get paid a minuscule fraction of what this tea fetches abroad,” said Besky, who lived on the tea plantations in Darjeeling, West Bengal talking to workers, plantation owners and area activists for months from 2007 to 2010.
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