Tea history book, including the dark side

Reading “A Time for Tea”, ‘Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation’, by Piya Chatterjee … and highly recommend it for anyone interested in an in-depth account of tea history.
Prof. Chatterjee adds the story of the female pickers and their hardship to this history. Quoting the back cover ’ terrible working conditions, low wages, and coercive labor practices enforced by the patronage system’.

Full of fascinating info, one tiny sampling describes the evolution of grades of tea during the T’ang dynasty, which where determined by the gentleness of handling. Woman pluckers were desired, young women more so, virgins even better, and the ultimate ’ clipped with golden scissors, the “imperial cut” was reserved for the emperor’s precious and discerning palate".

Has anyone else read this book?

It was published in 2001 – I wonder if things have improved at all for these ladies? Does anyone have any first hand knowledge?

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If you check out the online publication of some Indian newspapers you can see that, while the increase of Fair Trade in the region has helped a lot since then, there are some even-worse problems that have formed in the past year as plantations have been sold and minority rights have come into play.

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This article (dated Feb 2010) says that the Fair Trade tea is only 10% of the market


The article is upbeat – it seems as though the Fair Trade movement is on the right track, but still has a long way to go - 90%!!
The descriptions of these women’s lives is heartbreaking. Another quote from the back cover of the book “Tea does not taste the same after one has read this strikingly original book”.

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