STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 3, Number 5

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64 STiR tea & coffee industry international I n a land with 15,000 tea estates there is nothing like it. Kanan Devan Hills Plantations are perched high in the South Western Ghats Mountains in the State of Kerala, a hotspot of biodiversity in southern India. The seven tea gardens surround Munnar, a mile-high resort city framed by forest- covered peaks that rise to 8,850 ft. (2,695 m). The surrounding forests are filled with large numbers of endemic and endangered flora and fauna, the most famous of which are the Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat of the ibex family and the strobilanthes kuninthianus, a brilliant blue flowering plant that blooms once every 12 years. KDHP's16 factories and 58,744 acres (23,783 ha) of forests, lakes, and terraced tea are constructed on a bedrock of dams and roads that took James Finlay and Tata Tea Ltd. a century to build. The plantation employs nearly 12,000 workers who produce 22 million kilos of tea largely for the domestic market with 5 million kilos shipped around the globe. It is the largest tea exporter in South India. Annual earnings exceed $US47 million. KDHP also maintains the largest sustainably-managed forest of any estate in the country. It is one of the largest tea plantations in the world and the second largest in India to receive the coveted Rainforest Alliance certification with 21,856 certified acres (8,845 ha). Teas produced on the Chundavurrai Estate are also Fairtrade Certified and the Kundaly Division of the Chundavurrai Estate is IMO certified organic. The majority of the Kundaly Organic teas are sold in North America by Devan Shah at ITI in Los Angeles, who first introduced these teas in the US and Manik Jayakumar of Cerritos, Calif.-based QTrade Teas & Spices. Black tea is predominate but Chundavurrai Estate also produces one of India's finest green teas which is supplied to Tata Global Bever- ages Ltd., Unilever, and other major tea suppliers including UK-based Typhoo. In short, KDHP is one of the most efficient and productive estates in the world. All this distinguishes KDHP among its peers – but what sets it apart is the faith it puts in workers. In fact, the entire venture is employee-centric. Workers decide operating priorities and share in the profits at southern India's largest tea garden – a model of participatory management that has doubled revenue in the past decade. The Garden of Hope Garden fresh green tea, left, for the export market. Story and Photos By Dan Bolton

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