I’m back from Nepal, happy and surprised, after a trip with my friends from Karuna-Shechen, the non-profit association founded by Matthieu Ricard. I asked them to accompany me deep into the country’s easternmost valley to see for themselves the living conditions of the pickers in this region. My aim was to convince them of the benefits of Palais des Thés and Karuna working together to improve the villagers’ living conditions. But after we’d spoken with a number of people in their local language, Karuna’s enthusiastic response left me stunned. Their answer was this: in the 10 years since these villagers have been growing tea, their living conditions have improved to such an extent that we don’t need to be focusing our efforts on supporting them. Instead, it’s important for us to understand how worthwhile tea growing has been for these people, and how producing quality tea that costs 20 or 30 times more than mediocre tea has empowered an entire community to be able to take charge of its own future.
It now remains to be seen how we can help the people we visited so we don’t disappoint them, and above all to understand how this model of responsible tea growing could be easily duplicated.