Tea pickers, Munnar

Munnar is a small mountain town in Kerala, in southern India. Getting there is not easy, there isn’t a railway line, and the roads are few and tortuous. However, this is a popular destination with tourists from around the world because here they can find one of the best teas in the Country. With its 1450 meters of altitude this is the area with the highest tea plantations in the world: every year here are produced about 50 000 tons of leaves.
The economy of the region is linked to the drink, which in turn is deeply related to the culture of India. Traces of the cultivation of the plant were found dating from the Twelfth century. Just by referring to this union a few days ago the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has announced that India intends to grant the status of “national drink” to tea . A choice that doesn’t have a symbolic value only: “There is an urgent need to invest in HRD for the tea industry,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, a member of the North East Tea Association, an organization that protects the product in the north east of Country. What worries most the Indian authorities is the increase of coffee drinkers, especially in the youngest group of the population.
Today India is the second largest tea producer in the world and it consumes about 837 000 tons annually. The coffee is well away from this spread, 108 000 tons are consumed each year, but its appeal is disturbing: Starbucks recently announced it will open its first store in the Subcontinent. The U.S. giant will compete with the three major brands in the country, Cafe Coffee Day, the Italian Barista Lavazza, and Costa Coffee. For nearly 15 years, these companies have been promoting a culture of the coffee shop as a place to meet and socialize: “In India, we don’t have many places to hang out, and these chains don’t have any objections to us spending hours and hours sitting there.” a student from Mumbai recently told the BBC.
The vendors of chai, Indian tea for excellence, are however not interested in the development of the “phenomenon of coffee” because it doesn’t conflict with their activities. The cost of a coffee is much higher compared to that of a chai taken in the street. Actually in the last 15 years the consumption of tea has increased by 275 thousand tons: to support the spread is, however, was mainly the population growth.