Friday, July 11, 2014

The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India by Sarah Besky

I finished this book months ago and for some reason I thought that I had already written about it here. It turns out that I had not, which is a shame because it was one of the most mind opening tea reads that I've had in a long time. We all drink tea but it is important that we also think about where that tea came from and the affect that each purchase has on the world. Fair Trade seems like a good solution but it's not a one-size-fits-all cure. Darjeeling is one region that presents unique challenges.

Sarah Besky gives the most thorough explanation of all of the environmental, political, cultural and socioeconomic factors that contribute to the current situation in Darjeeling. The first thing that made me sit up and take notice was that she took much of her findings from the perspective of the tea pickers themselves. I've read many articles about these issues and not one of them took the time to speak with the people who are affected the most. This book is an anthropological study but it reads in a engaging, approachable way. You don't have to be a scientist to understand the principles and events that are discussed.

This is a book that every Western tea drinker needs to read. While a clear solution has not yet been reached, knowledge is power. The more facts that we have about a particular situation, the more likely it is that someone will be able to do something to enact positive, sustainable change.

You can find out more about this book here.