My Jeep adventure goes on as the roads get worse. As I am being shaken in the car imagine; the tea has to go down this road as well.
My jeep adventure continues on the mountain where the road is continuing to get worse by the mile. While I’m becoming a literal human cocktail, I realise the tea goes through the same journey as I am right now, on its way to customers. This is why my guide has decided to build a tiny factory on top of the mountain. All farmers are able to sell their product to them. In turn, they get 4 training sessions a year, and each company is obliged to send at least two of their employees to it. They must also tell at least 10 people, be it at their workplace or private life, about the training so that the word spreads, just like their customer base. All farmers get together close to harvesting season to get an intense training that lasts two days. I like the way they think! If the farmers had to transport their harvest all the way down the mountain, it would have a great negative impact on their leaves. This because the quality withers the more it’s transported. So, the more at the top, the better the quality. So it’s a win-win situation for both parties
negotiation with the government
Women work in the factory. This is really controversial. Right at this moment, the husbands of these women are protesting against their jobs. They want their wives to stay at home, and become housewives. The protest has sadly reached their goal though; the factory is closed :( The government and union are trying to reach a settlement but it’s been a while now. The woman in charge of the factory is scared she will have to take her daughter out of private school, and make her attend a public school. She’s been working to provide her daughter a better future, because she isn’t able to do this from just her husband’s income. My guide hugs her and tells her he will pay for it as long as the factory remains closed. We’ll have a talk with the school tomorrow. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to witness this. Seeing the reality from different points of view, and deeper insights into culture is a goal I set myself when travelling to different countries.
special and important
I’m seeing this all and think back to all the farmers I’ve come across; they looked good, healthy and had good working conditions. A contrast to most places here in Nepal. I realise more than ever that it’s so important for me to do business with farmers who make a difference in their community. Business with no other intentions, purely to be able to change the farmers’ lives. Paying for quality is a party in itself. So I tell myself to always do this. It’s something special, don’t you think? Appreciation and a future.
a ton of notes
We take a look inside the factory and there’s another tasting ready for us. We get to work. These are of the type I already buy, but from different lots and farms. It’s nice to see, more satisfying really (to my inner control freak) that you’re able to ask questions about literally anything about the plant. The packing dates, farmer, height, subvariety. The factory tells the farmer how to pick the plant. Whether it’d be the top, two leafs or just one. We drink on and I am reminded why I love this taste so much. Nostalgic day hey! Because of the (good) tea sorts in Nepal there’s a certain taste which really speaks to me. The sweet tones of peach, yet so refreshing, is an unique combination I will forever treasure. I end up making a ton of notes before we can leave.
work hard or lie arond
We walk around the plantation for about an hour. I talk to pluckers, the farmer, and take a look at all the plants here. It’s funny that you learn bit by bit here. Kinda like a puzzle. But this puzzle keeps getting bigger. Endless. I don’t mind as long as I keep collecting the ‘pieces’ of knowledge. When we walk down the mountain, I spot the Jeep, ready to take us back to the rocky roads. There we go! It’s gonna take about 1.5hrs to get to the nearest lunch stop. Says a lot about the number of places you’re able to lunch at here. Small stalls are used to make shops out of by the locals. Another thing I notice (because I notice a lot) is that people are constantly busy, whether it’d be trade or relaxing. Funny contract between the two, I’m either seeing people work real hard, or just lie around and relax.
People here live in tents or small houses, and do not have heating in them, despite it getting really cold here at night. They’d all be classified as poor; but I gotta give em credit where needed; these people are creative. Different coloured houses and growing plants out of plastic bags. They live together with their families in these small houses, the latter being made out of brick or sometimes even corrugated iron. Even though I got used to the imagery quickly, I will note that the cow each family owns lives in a nice stall, eats until it’s stomach is filled, and even gets a blanket. Weird. It’s unbelievable that you’d even take up caring for a cow when you yourself have next to nothing. I think I’d be doing real other things to that cow if I were that poor. It is fascinating to see that even though people do not have washing machines here, women are dressed up to the nines. Beautiful wraps and amazing jewellery. Everywhere you go you’re able to purchase bracelets and necklaces.
can we use our hands, please?
When we arrive at a local diner at the top of the mountain, I once again am reminding WHY I do what I do. We all sit at an old table after which it’s filled with dishes in all colours and sizes. I also get an old wooden bottle filled with wine. Nice. Plus, it makes your tummy warm haha :)We eat with knife and fork, and I ask my guide if we could eat with our hands? He tells me the whole reason he’s doing this is to make me more comfortable. I ask him if it’s okay if we just use our hands. He laughs and put his cutlery to one side. We eat with our hands, enjoying the silence, the food and the wine. I love it. The food tastes good, exotic flavours and so different to what I’ve been eating the last few weeks.
When we’re done, we decide to walk around the area where monks grow tea. It looks like I’m in a painting; it’s so beautiful. There is a massive lake there. My guide tells me that there’s something mysterious about this lake. The thing is, sometimes the river dries up, and magically fills itself within moments, without having another riverflow join there. Magical lake. It looks magical around here too. There’s trees covered in moss. And it’s chilly and damp. After a 30 minute walk we go back to the Jeep and start our journey down the mountain. On the way down we have two more tasting, allowing me to expand my assortment while learning, enjoying and travelling. Life is an art in itself, isn’t it?
This blog is about No.015 - White Sandakphu and No. 018 - Himalaya Gold