Reinterpreting Tea Leaves (in Darjeeling and Assam)

Do you know where your favorite cup of tea comes from? You might imagine rolling hills, exotic climes and colorfully dressed people plucking leaves from well-manicured tea bushes. But that's just partof the picture.

In two of India's most famous tea regions, Darjeeling and Assam, most workers toil long hours for less than $1.50 a day. Houses are overcrowded, sanitation is rudimentary and illiteracy rates hover around 70 percent. What's more, tea workers are hesitant to speak upbecause they fear losing their jobs -- and, since the tea estates own everything within their fences, their homes as well.

Mercy Corps is working to improve life for tea-estate families. We'repartnering with local organizations and estate managers to offer more economic opportunities, better health care and education -- and to empower families to advocate for their own rights.

I traveled with photographer Thatcher Cook to visit some of these families. I invite you to meet those we serve and take a new look at the tea lands.

Roger Burks, Senior Web Writer

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