"Animals can do charitable work. Ants do it. Dogs do it. What is the difference then? Men can be masters of themselves. They can resist the reaction to anything. ...The animal cannot resist anything. He is held...by the string of nature everywhere. That is all the distinction. One is the master of nature, the other the slave of nature. What is nature? The five senses....the animal has its happiness in the senses, the man in his intellect". - Swami Vivekananda
Margherita (Assam), Feb 18 (IANS) Organic tea coins made by
a tribal community in Assam are becoming popular in Europe
and Southeast Asian countries with people preferring them
increasingly to conventional tea bags.
"The demand for the organic tea coin is increasing by
the day after we were able to penetrate markets in the US,
Britain, Canada, China, Thailand, and now in Hong Kong,"
Rajesh Singpho, owner of Singpho Agro Products that manufactures
the organic tea coins, told IANS.
Packed in silver foils, the tea coins come in a neat pack
of two grams, five grams and 10 grams and are ready to use
- dip the coin into a pot of hot water and it is ready to
"The ratio is one is to four - you can get four cups
of strong tea by dipping a coin weighing two grams,"
"People in Europe and other Southeast Asian nations are
increasingly health conscious and would rather prefer organic
Indian tea to the conventional tea."
Spread over an area of about nine hectares of land in Margherita,
540 km east of Assam's main city Guwahati, Singpho and his
100-odd workforce toil hard to produce about 90,000 kg of
organic tea annually.
"The entire process of manufacturing the tea is done
in a traditional manner without the use of any machines or
gadgets. It is all done manually," Singpho said.
The Singpho tribe in Assam and the adjoining state of Arunachal
Pradesh, now numbering about 25,000, is believed to have first
discovered tea bushes.
In the late 1830s, long before the commercial production of
tea started in India, the tea plant was growing wild in the
jungles of Assam.
Singpho tribes people ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic,
besides drinking the brew after dipping the leaves in boiled
"We are fetching a price of Rs.1,000 (over $20) per kg
of the tea we make. We sell it loose and also in the form
of coins," Singpho said.
The tea is sold under the brand name Phalap (meaning tea in
the Singpho language). The loose tea is packed in bamboo containers
so that the traditional properties are maintained and it is
free from any preservatives or chemicals.
"We are getting orders for 2,000 kg of tea coins from
Hong Kong. We are now working overtime to meet the demand,"
the young tea planter said.
India is the world's second largest tea producer after China
and produced 962 million kg in 2008 compared to 945 million
kg the previous year. Assam accounted for 55 percent of the
total output, most of it conventional tea.
A kilogram of premium quality Assam tea fetched Rs.90 in the
latest weekly auctions.
(Syed Zarir Hussain can be contacted at email@example.com)