Kumaon Tea: A New Farmer-Owned Tea Factory in the Himalayas

Rajesh Dasgupta
1 min read

In the Indian Himalayas, an 11-year-old U.S.-based tea company, Young Mountain Tea, is breaking new ground. They are partnering with smallholder farmers to establish Kumaon Tea, a farmer-owned tea factory. Co-founder Raj Vable aims to create a new model for tea production, focusing on boosting farmers' income and shaking off the industry's colonial legacy. The initiative began with a vision to elevate the quality of life for Himalayan farmers by improving the quality of their tea. Through this partnership, they are striving to introduce a break from the colonial legacy of the tea industry. Vable, alongside the farmers, is set on implementing a system that fosters change. The project's inception traces back 15 years, as Vable was involved in the solar electrification of villages. During this period, he recognized the pressing issues faced by the local farmers and took it upon himself to make a difference. Recognizing the underutilized agricultural expertise of the farmers, Vable proposed tea cultivation as a means to improve their income. Despite initial setbacks with the crop, Vable's perseverance led to the establishment of Young Mountain Tea in 2013. This journey saw the collaboration with Desmond Birkbeck, a second-generation tea farmer, leading to the formation of Kumoan Tea in 2022. The endeavor was further supported by a USAID grant to enhance conditions for tea processing. Looking ahead, plans for a new factory are in motion, aiming to produce the premium tea desired by Vable. With a strong focus on system change, Vable devised a visionary legal structure for the factory, ensuring the involvement and benefits for the farmers. The goal is to establish a model that encompasses the entire tea-making process and focuses on farmer ownership, thereby breaking the traditional low-cost product emphasis. Through Kumaon Tea, farmers, predominantly women, are projected to earn five times the normal commodity rates, fostering their learning of regenerative farming practices and business management. Heading towards the realization of this vision, Vable has secured substantial funding for his endeavors, including financial support and technical assistance from influential organizations. The construction of the factory is underway, and production is anticipated to commence in mid-May, with sales to begin in the U.S. in September, signifying a transformative leap in the tea industry.

This article is submitted by our user under the News Submission Rules and Guidelines.The cover photo is computer generated art for illustrative purposes only; not indicative of factual content.

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