Zocalo Café hosts celebration of fair trade tea

Hear how a group of young tea growers from Assam are changing the face of Assam’s tea industry.

Enjoy tapas inspired by the flavours of India, listen to some great live and recorded music, and hear how a group of young tea growers from Assam are changing the face of Assam’s tea industry at a celebration of fair trade tea here in the Comox Valley.

It’s all taking place Oct. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Zocalo Café.

The event marks the 10th anniversary of the Assam Tea Project, a local initiative that provides encouragement and training in organic farming practices to small-scale tea growers, farmers and families from northeast India.

The initiative got its start in 1999 when, encouraged by increasing sales and support for their fair trade coffee project, members of the World Community Development Education Society began looking for a supply of organic tea.

They asked friends Kel Kelly and Peggy Carswell, who’d just returned from several months travelling in northeast India, for help — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the next year, Carswell learned all she could about India’s tea industry and organic tea cultivation, and returned to Assam to track down a good quality black, loose-leaf tea. Several months later, she’d located a small handful of growers scattered throughout the state who were enthusiastic about the idea of producing organic tea.

But there was a problem.

They had no concept of what growing organically actually entailed, and the rolling machines, dryers and processing equipment were extremely expensive and designed for large-scale factories not family-based operations.

While Carswell eventually found a larger, well-established company that could provide World Community with certified organic and fairly traded tea, she didn’t lose hope that with training and support, the small-scale growers could eventually begin producing their own teas.

For the past decade, proceeds from the sale of World Community’s tea, topped up with an annual donation from Edible Island, have helped Fertile Ground, an enthusiastic group of volunteers from the West Coast — and the growers — accomplish that goal.

Learn more about the remarkable group of tea growers, sample their teas, and join World Community, Edible Island and Fertile Ground in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Assam Tea Project.

The Zocalo Café is located at 208 Fifth St. in Courtenay. Admission is by donation.

As seating is limited, organizers suggest calling Zocalo before the event to make reservations at 250-331-0933. Visit www.fertile-ground.org for more information.

— Fertile Ground