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“The Champagne of Tea” for Education

May 19, 2010

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The Learning Tea is an innovative project started by Katrell Christie, owner of Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party, a tea house in Atlanta. Driven by a passionate desire to help the young people she encountered during her 2009 trip to Darjeeling, India, she started the tea company as a way to fund educational opportunities and supplies for these children, living under conditions of extreme poverty and vulnerability.

Filmmakers Phoebe Brown and Charlene Fisk of Unblinking Eye Films became supporters of the project and are now in the planning and funding stages of a film about it, featuring Christie and one of the young women beneficiaries, now making her way from the Buddhist orphanage where she grew up to university, thanks to the support of the project.

The goals of The Learning Tea are quite ambitious, but appear to be within the grasp of its founder. In addition to supporting the project through purchasing the teas directly, interested persons can support the film project through Kickstarter. An excerpt of the film’s description:

In the summer of 2009 Katrell went to India looking for tea. What she found in Darjeeling is the darker side of the region: a hub for trafficking girls into forced labor and child prostitution. Non-Governmental Organizations in the area estimate that between 7-10,000 girls are tracked annually to Indian brothels from Nepal which borders Darjeeling. Girls—some as young as 6 and 7— are frequently forced into prostitution. Not wanting to be consumer profiteer, Katrell came up with a plan: The Learning Tea.

Through the sale of Darjeeling tea from a Fair Trade tea plantation Katrell hopes to create a sustainable system that supports jobs in the community and funds higher education for girls. The question is—can this simple plan work?

Unblinking Eye Films–producer Phoebe Brown– will document Katrell’s return to India and introduce you to the young woman Katrell is sponsoring from orphanage to university. These girls—many of Nepalese origin—age out of a Buddhist run orphanage at 16 and face the grim realities for young women lacking opportunity and education: a life of forced prostitution, hard labor or servitude–too often under brutal conditions. The sexual enslavement of women is one of the most pressing issues of our time and the world’s eyes need to be opened to the possibility and importance of change.

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