Exploring Life on a Tea Estate
The world relies on tea and that’s a fact! Tea is the world’s most consumed beverage next to water, and so if you think tea is a thing of the past, you might want to rethink that statement. Tea history is rich around the world and especially in Sri Lanka, where a third of the world’s tea comes from. Ever think about how your tea gets to you, though? A lot of the process begins on tea estates. Our founder, Sashee, visited a tea estate in Sri Lanka and documented her experience as she immersed herself into life on an estate and made connections to her own heritage! Read below to learn more from her perspective!
Visiting Sri Lanka was a full circle type-of-moment for me. For so long there had been civil war strife in the country and my dad felt hesitant for our family to visit, so this was my trip to my homeland (well at least the first half). I was immediately captivated by its beauty - insanely lush landscapes, warm people, and delicious tropical fruit. At one time, Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) was the the largest exporter of tea in the world.
My dad revealed to me weeks before our trip that he was born on a tea estate in Sri Lanka called Derry Clare Estate. His maternal grandfather had been a government clerk assigned to the estate and that's where his mom raised him during his toddler years. I was in shock. How did he withhold this intel from me for so long? I asked him, and he shrugged his shoulders gesturing that he merely forgot. HOW?!
It's an odd feeling when you're finally able to connect the dots of your life. I imagined my dad as a child running around the fields of Derry Clare. I then thought about his insane journey of being born on a remote tea estate in Sri Lanka and then somehow making a life in Los Angeles, CA 25 years later. It became more clear to me that my affinity for tea was not just guided by chance. That there was a deeper connection as to why I was always drawn to tea culture. It connects me to heritage; it connects me to myself.
I ended up visiting Derry Clare and the super kind estate manager, Arjuna gave full tour of the beautiful estate property. It was surreal to walk the grounds where my younger dad played 75 years before. I felt so lucky. Arjuna pulled out my dad's birth records proving he was born on the estate. It was amazing. We took lots of footage of the tour, and I can't wait to share my dad's story more thoroughly in the coming months.
Sri Lanka is filled with beauty. And tea exports account for a huge portion of Sri Lanka's economy. While organic tea estates like Idulgashinna Bio Tea Garden represent the best in terms of production, worker treatment, and farming integrity -- there are still a lot of disparities in the tea industry that affect all of us. Women make up over 75% of the workforce, and yet often their voices are not heard. Most do not have the opportunity to ever make it to management positions on the estate. Many are choosing to leave the industry altogether, and encouraging their children to do the same due to the lack of dignity/respect. There are severe impacts if treatment across tea estates does not improve -- including detriment to the tea economy, agricultural/environmental impacts, and a decline in tea quality. They collect a minimum of 35 lbs of tea leaves a day - contributing significantly to the industry, and yet are often marginalized. This is why fair trade is very important to us - it signifies better wages, conditions, and opportunities. The good, the bad, and the promising.
We are sharing videos that highlight tea estate life -- from the perspective of women, children, and estate administrators. In addition, we're be sharing behind the scenes of tea fields and production. I'm also sharing my dad's story about being born on a tea estate -- and its influence on why I started Tea Drops.
Visiting Sri Lanka was an emotional and enlightening journey for me, and I hope you'll appreciate learning more about this beautiful and complex teardrop island.