Friday, June 13, 2008

Tea and Trade

It’s sometimes possible to ‘travel’ around the world without ever setting foot outside your hometown. Ten Thousand Villages is a nonprofit, fair trade organization that works with more than 100 artisan groups in 30+ developing countries. Artisans whose work reach the shelves of a Ten Thousand Villages store receive a living wage and full payment for their work, before shipment.

The local Ten Thousand Villages store currently displays a Nepalese tea set with hand-painted designs that originated from women’s wall paintings. The set reflects a thriving tea drinking culture. Located amidst the Himalayas – including Mt. Everest – Nepal grows aromatic teas that have become increasingly popular throughout the world, in recent years, because they are generally more flavorful.

But tea is more than a beverage in Nepal; it is a way of life. Sherpas awake mountain trekkers with tea, and ‘Have you had your tea?’ is a common question everywhere. When the Nepalese share tea, they are at their most hospitable. And, when foreigners return home, many suffer withdrawal from this gentle, pervasive practice.

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