Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coffee and Tea

Majumdar makes a pilgrimage to Darjeeling producer of "the finest black teas in the world". Much of what he learned and saw was similar to what James and know know about the coffee trade as well. The tea tasting (called "cupping" in the coffee biz) is a spectacle involving slurping, spitting, and some very sophisticated palates. Workers on the tea plantation (the Goomtee Guesthouse) he visited worked extremely hard and were rewarded with schooling, housing, health care and meals, as well as wages. This was true also at the Selva Negra Estate in Nicaragua which grows coffee. However, I do not want to give the impression that this is typical of the treatment of coffee and tea workers on most farms or plantations. The vast majority of coffee, tea, and cocoa workers are paid poor wages, may or may not have housing and meals provided, and if so, only during the harvest season, perhaps 3 months of the year. Children do not necessarily go to school. Coffee farmers we have met often have no idea how much their crop is worth, and sell it for a price so low it may well represent a loss. Meanwhile the coffee is sold by the cup in New York City for the equivalent of $80 a pound (that represents a price by the cup at a coffee shop). To find out more please visit

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