Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling
Owned by the Prakash Family, 3rd and 4th generation tea planters
Glenburn Tea Estate originally established in 1860 lies on steep hillsides above the River Rungeet which marks the boundry between Darjeeling and Sikkim and is overlooked by the 3rd highest mountain in the world, Mt Kanchenjanga. The terrain and lay of the land includes windward and leeward as well as sunny slopes, 2 streams, rockfalls, about 1000 acres of forest, and nearly 2500 feet in elevation changes. This terrain, sunlight, soil, and varying wind conditions, combined with old china tea bushes dating at 100 years old along with new hybrids of various kinds alows for the production of some unique teas.
Tea Pickers at Glenburn Tea Estate Photos by Jack Strand
Children and Families
Glenburn Tea Estate is committed to the well being of tea estate workers and their families and is a member of The Ethical Tea Partnership. For the past several years Glenburn has supported village primary level schools and established sponsorship programs for individual students to go on for further education.
Sanjay Sharma with students at one of
Glenburn Village Schools
photo by Jack Strand
Mr Sanjay Sharma,Glenburn Tea Estate Manager, has initiated several innovations in both the growing of the tea bushes and the production of teas. For the past several years he has added many organic growing practices such as vermiculture (worm castings) and organic manure compost, large plantings of Marigolds between the rows of tea bushes for organic pest control and mulch, and planting native shade trees.
Additionally he and his staff have been growing tea seedlings for different cultivars and reviving 100 year old china tea plants. In the processing of the tea leaf Sanjay has made limited production first flush, second flush, autumnal and wonderful silver needle white teas - one called 'Moonshine' won awards and tea professional accolades. The main thing from Jack Strand's visit in October 2012 was the overarching sense of respect that Sanjay and his workers have for the land, the work, and the tea itself. And as a bonus, several cottages near the tea factory with stunning mountain scenery were refurbished and newly built for the adventurous tourist. The Glenburn Bungalows and staff are rated as one of the best in India.
Korakundah and Chamraj Tea Estates
Mr T G B Pinto, Director, United Nilgiri Tea Estates Co, Ltd
Strand Tea Company is especially pleased to acknowledge the long time community service of two of our tea suppliers in the Nilgiri Mountains of South India. Korakundah Tea Estate is an Organic and Fair Trade Tea Estate producing Black and Green Teas. Located in pristine forest areas at approximately 7450 feet above sea level, it is arguably the highest, if not one of the highest tea estates in the world. Great care has been taken to blend tea growing and production with the surrounding jungle forest where big cats, unique indigenous wildlife, and even wild elephants pass through.
Chamraj Tea Estate, producer of Organic and Fair Trade teas, was established in 1922. It is located at approximately 5400 feet above sea level amongst pristine mountain streams in the heart of the Nilgiri Tea Region. Its teas are exported to the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
Korakundah and Chamraj Estates have made a commitment of care for tea workers and their families, many of whom are of Tamil Heritage, living on the estate or in adjacent villages. The United Nilgiri Tea Estates Company, Ltd which owns and directs tea estates including Korakundah and Chamraj was one of the first producer members of Fairtrade in India selling teas under the Transfair label since 1994.
With the premiums received from Transfair, the Joint Body (council of workers and managers) has made a real difference in the lives of its workers and people from surrounding villages. Some of their achievements are listed below.
Chamraj Tea Estate School
The United Nilgiri Tea Estates are in the South India State of Tamil Nadu where the Tamil language is written and spoken. Tamil Medium School education is free. Seeing a future need, the UNTE Group and Joint Body, has built an English speaking middle school offering the lowest possible fees to encourage families to have their children get an additional English speaking education. The school currently enrolls about 520 students – mostly first generation school goers. The Joint Body subsidizes the school and the salaries of its teachers.
Computer education is seen as a priority. 12 computers were recently purchased for students for grades 1-12. Students are given 50% off their school fee if they study computers.
A school bus was bought by the Joint Body to transport all the children enrolled in English Medium School from neighboring villages, whether associated with the tea estates or not.
A 2400 sq foot hostel was built and provided for poor children coming from far away places where their parents could not provide any other means of education.
A 2558 sq foot School Laboratory building was built for Higher Secondary School. Pre-University Lab facilities are available for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics education.
A Community Building for Tea Estate workers and local community residents has been outfitted with a TV Dish Antenna which in turn was routed to all Tea Estate worker housing for TV viewing. Recently 800 chairs were purchased for community events such as weddings and other social functions.
Cooking gas has been provided for all Tea Estate worker houses. This cuts down on the environmental impact of scavenging the forest for fire wood, saves time and energy of the residents, reduces pollution from wood smoke, and eases the work of household cooking.
Hepatitis B and Typhoid Vaccine have been provided at no charge for all Tea Estate Workers, their spouses, and children.
A pension plan for workers was funded entirely by endowment interest from money set aside by the UNTE group. Workers are not required to pay into the pension fund which they collect upon retirement. In addition a retirement housing fund was created by equal contributions from workers and UNTE group. Workers pay into the retirement fund until they retire, and then are granted money to build their own housing. So far 1,121 workers have benefited from retirement housing.
Mr T G B Pinto is a Senior Director of the UNTE Group and a voice for good business practices while promoting fairness in labor practices and the welfare of tea workers and their families. Looking to the future is foremost in his approach. He has been an innovator and initiator in many of the projects listed above in managing the business operation, having nearly 2000 employees, and covering 3200 acres of land. He is in charge of export operations to countries around the world, and is a recognized tea expert with over 25 years working on tea estates in all aspects of tea production. He is also immediate past Chairman of the Nilgiri Planters Association and Member of the Executive Committee of the Planters’ association of Tamil Nadu.
Besides possessing the ability to focus with intensity to solve problems, he is fun to be with, has a quick wit, tells great stories, and usually has a twinkle in his eyes. Strand Tea salutes Mr Pinto & his colleagues for their vision action, with best wishes for continued success in a fair business model.