The (poor) pun in the title of this post is to draw attention to the hidden costs that go into one's daily cuppa. The nature of the beverage- the need to pluck two leaves and a bud- requires intense labour. And dexterity, for which "reason", more often than not, the labour is female.
Passage to Bondage:Labour in the Assam Tea Plantation is Stree's new book, edited by Samita Sen of Jadavpur University.
The most lucrative colonial commercial enterprise for the British Empire in India was the tea industry, concentrated in Assam and North Bengal. The coolies were brought from eastern and central India and virtually sold to the gardens at enormous profit. This was the only industry to employ women in such large numbers. By the late nineteenth century, stories of rape, abduction and high mortality caught the imagination of the new middle class that was moved to protest, petition and mobilize public opinion. The book documents the colonial social history, particularly the severely exploitative labour system, akin to slavery, with a historical perspective on coolie labour and the women question