Bijit and Swapna: Role Models in Tea
“Many small people, in small places, doing small things, can change the world.”
In Assam, this quote rings especially true. The small-scale tea growers we work with have an incredible ability to empower their communities. Bijit and Swapna embody this empowerment. Not only are they a couple passionate about organic tea production, but they’re role models for their community. They are leaders, caring neighbours, and great human beings.
Quality is always on the forefront for Bijit and Swapna; each step of the tea-producing process requires care. According to Swapna, plucking is the most important stage. Leaves should be selected carefully, only the small leaves at the top of the bushes should be plucked.
Producing tea requires a community. While Bijit and Swapna own the tea garden, they employ a group of local women to pluck the leaves. It’s a manual process to guarantee the selection of only the best leaves.
The women Bijit and Swapna choose to employ often would not be able to find work; they typically have no education, cannot read or write, and are from Indigenous communities that experience discrimination. Swapna says she chooses these women specifically, to give them an opportunity for work and to be a part of a community. They treat their workers like family members, visiting their homes, spending holidays together, and always looking out for their well-being.
The fair trade premium (the extra we pay to ensure farmers receive a fair wage for their work) went directly to the workers. This money was used to improve their homes, fund education for their children, and buy goats for their family.
Our favourite thing Bijit and Swapna do? Pick up their workers every single day.
The tea garden is about thirty minutes outside of town, and not on a bus route. Their workers don’t have access to bikes or a vehicle, so Bijit and Swapna use their van to transport their worker to and from the garden each day! At 8:00am they arrive at the meeting place with tea for their workers and a joyful ride to work. After their 6-7 hour workday, they share tea, cookies, and conversation before driving back to town.