Who Makes the Most Popular Drink in the World?

What’s the world’s most popular beverage? Is it coffee, that black gold that Americans rely so much on? Is it a soft drink, wine or beer? Nope. The world’s most popular drink is tea. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that each day, globally we consume 6 billion cups of tea.

A woman stands in a field holding tea leaves in her hand, the most popular drink in the world. She wears a sari and a straw hat with a bag underneath to hold tea leaves. She stands in a large field.

Dipty works in the tea fields of northeastern Bangladesh. As a day-laborer, she doesn’t receive the benefits that permanent workers do, such as food rations, medical benefits and a place to live.

Dipty makes just 102 Taka a day, approximately $1.20, for picking 50 pounds of tea leaves. Around the world, tea pickers from India to Sri Lanka experience similar conditions. As they work, they carry bags or baskets on their heads, which slowly get heavier and heavier as the day moves on.

At the end of a long day picking tea, workers line up to have their leaves weighed.

Women stand outside in a line carrying heavy bags full of tea leaves, the most popular drink in the world, strapped to their heads. They wear colorfully patterned skirts and shirts.

Next, men load the heavy bags onto a truck to be taken to the processing plant.

At the end of their grueling workday, $1.20 is not enough for these workers to provide for their families or invest in their children’s future. Tea workers often aren’t able to get treatment for things like snake bites and injuries or to receive prenatal care. But Dipty doesn’t know anything beyond life in the tea fields.

A woman wearing a straw hat, red shirt and tan colored sari stands in a large green field full of bushes, picking leaves to make the most popular drink in the world.

For generations, children of tea pickers have joined their parents in the tea gardens, learning from them on the job. Eventually the children drop out of school to work full time. It’s the only option many know because of the unavailability of jobs for unskilled workers outside the tea fields.

A 15-year-old boy wearing an orange shirt and red shorts crouches in front of an adobe wall. To his right is a younger boy, wearing a pink shirt and a traditional plaid skirt.

Uttam is 15. When his father had a stroke and was paralyzed, Uttam replaced him in the tea fields in northeastern Bangladesh to work under his name. Unlike Dipty, he is a permanent worker. That means he receives monthly basic medications and food rations, including 8 kilograms of rice and lentils. Like Dipty, he earns $1.20 a day, but that still isn’t enough to support his family of four.

So Uttam’s 10-year-old brother, Sujit, started working too.

A 10-year-old boy wearing a coral-colored shirt carries a large bundle of wood on his shoulder, with a machete stuck in the top of the wood.

Sujit would walk 45 minutes into the jungle to collect wood, and carry back more than 30 pounds on his young shoulders. His family would use the wood to cook, and he’d sell the extra to neighbors. Sujit also started working for a local brick mason and carpenter. But he was easy prey for exploitation. His employers knew Sujit’s family was powerless, and he was never paid for his work in full. For 40 days work, he only received two weeks’ pay.

An older man without a shirt sits on a blanket against a tan colored wall, looking down at the ground. A young boy in a pink shirt sitting next to him looks at him.
Sujit’s father was no longer able to work after he had a stroke and was paralyzed.

“I tried to work as hard as I could at the construction site, but I didn’t like the fact that they didn’t pay me on time. Until now they paid me only for two weeks’ work,” says Sujit.

But thanks to sponsors, this cycle of child labor is being broken.

A girl wearing green pants, a pink shirt and a white scarf leans against the trunk of a large tree. A young boy wearing jeans and a white button-up shirt kneels below her as they smile at each other.

These are Dipty’s children, Mispi and Samuel. Neither work on the tea planation because both are sponsored through Compassion. At first, Mispi’s parents’ highest aspiration for her was to become an officer in the tea fields, but sponsorship opened her eyes to bigger goals.

“The day I came to know that I was sponsored and received my sponsor’s photo, it felt like the sky was the limit for me to reach out to my dreams,” says Mispi.

Now Mispi has something else planned for her future. She wants to become a nurse and serve people in need. This studious 19-year-old is leading her family beyond the tea gardens.

A family of six sits outside, smiling, including an older man in blue, a woman wearing a tan sari, a girl in a yellow dress, and another girl in a pink and green outfit. Below them are a young boy in a white shirt and blue pants and a young girl in a yellow dress.

“Tea picking will help us to somehow survive in the tea field, but with nursing skills I will not only survive but also help others with my skills, like my sponsor is supporting me from hundreds of miles away,” says Mispi.

Sujit also no longer has to work.

A young boy wearing a red button-up shirt smiles widely, standing in front of a tan wall.

Because of his family’s highly vulnerable situation, they began to receive additional support from Compassion. The family now receives monthly supplies of rice, soybean oil, lentils and toiletries. The support is enough that Sujit no longer has to provide these basic necessities for his family.

While the support from Compassion doesn’t eliminate the family’s challenges, the presence of Compassion’s church partner in the village is showing children a new way to live. A way in which they don’t have to pick up machetes, but can play and go to school.

A young smiling boy wearing a red shirt sits in the lap of a smiling teenager wearing a blue plaid shirt, with his hands clasped around his brother.

Ummat and Sujit’s circumstances expose the complexity of poverty. Families like theirs feel the strain of a reduced monthly income when their children go to school or attend the Compassion center instead of working. But these families are also beginning to understand that generational poverty can be broken in the long term.

Through the work of the local church and sponsorship, thousands of children in the northeastern districts of Bangladesh are learning a way out of poverty and a life beyond the tea gardens.

Thank you to all the sponsors who are making such an amazing difference in the lives of children!

5 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Merrill Wiggins January 26, 2021

    I feel very touched by the pics and am motivated to help people like this to live a better life!
    *I have the same Bible as the boy in the picture with the bike (in English, though)!!
    ~Madeline (age 9)

  2. Laurie Smith August 20, 2019

    These stories are wonderful. When I was in Bangladesh in 1998, I found out that the local people didn’t drink good tea… just the left over dust or lousy tea. All of the tasty tea was exported. So their work didn’t even produce a nice locally sold product. I hope that has changed since 1998. I’m so thankful for Compassion’s work in Bangladesh and around the world where poverty is greatest!

  3. Bubba McCants August 18, 2019

    Thank you to Jesus for providing for me so I can be used to help with these beautiful families!

  4. Keith Marsden August 17, 2019

    It is a grand emotion to know of the wonderful Godly work Compassion is doing. I can become emotional very easily as I look at the articles and see the smiling faces and people with hope for a better life. Praise God

  5. Ann May 6, 2019

    Very interesting, yet sad, article. I’m happy that I can sponsor a child.

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