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Life

Small tea maker makes it big in Darjeeling

'Mini factory' breaks the plantation model to empower growers and workers

Bhawesh Niroula and his wife, Sonia, inspect the withering of tea leaves at Niroula's Tea Factory. (Photo by Manob Ghosh)

DARJEELING, India -- The heavily potholed dirt road winds through pine forests, quiet hamlets and small tea gardens before bending off in front of the factory at Niroula's Tea Farm. Nearby, two workers pluck tender green tips -- just two-leaves-and-a-bud -- of tea, balancing wicker-baskets on their heads and themselves on the sloping ground.

"Twenty years ago, we had potatoes growing here, and maize and other vegetables," said Bhawesh Niroula of Chota Poobong village, 8 km from Ghoom, India's highest railway station. "My father changed that." However, owing to personal hardships, Bikram Niroula had to stop growing tea in 2009.

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