unbekannter Gast

No cup of tea without women who pick the tea- leaves!#

By

Günther Jontes


Blossom and leaves of the tea-bush
Blossom and Leaves of the tea-bush, under CC BY 4.0
Typical area for growing tea
Typical area for growing tea, under CC BY 4.0
Picking tea
Picking tea, under CC BY 4.0

Tea is the most wide-spread refreshment drink in the world. More than one billion Chinese habe been drinking this brew that lifts you up for thousands of years. India is also a country that embraces teas, called Camellia sinensis in botany talk. Japan's tea-ceremony (jap. cha no yu) is a festival for all senses of tranquility and beauty. Tibet has turned it into a warming and strenghtening treat in one of the harshest climates where people live.

The West discovered tea fairly late but then started to treat it at an equal footing with coffee, both coming to Europe as a consequence of the discovery of the world by Western powers in the 16 th century.

The large tea growing areas of South-East Asia are India and Sri Lanka. Names like Darjeeling- and Assam-tea lead us into the North East of the subcontinent India, where elevation, amount of sunshine and rain provide the optimal harmonical conditions for tea. Attempts to grow coffee in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, the former Ceylon, were foiled by agricultural pests. The idea to rescue some of the efforts by growing tea turned into a huge success story. This tea with its delicate mixture of flavours started what is now an integral part of life in the UK: The Five 0’clock tea.

The most westernly areas to grow respectable tea are Armenia, the eastmosten ones are in Japan. Between Eastern Asia and the West there is a dividing line of two cultures: here fermented tea, there "green tea ", only half fermented.

India has areas in the South with also excellent teas. The famous Nilgiri-tea comes from the coastal range of the Western Ghats that belong to the provinces of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Nilgiri means translated "blue mountains".

In Kerala, on the Western slopes of the Nilgiris it is especially the area arund the city Munnar Indien, Munnar , where tea-bushes thrive particularly well and where there are companies who manage to bring the tea into the right combination for export.

Place for collecting tea
Place for collecting tea, under CC BY 4.0
Weighing
Weighing, under CC BY 4.0
Packaging
Packaging, under CC BY 4.0
Transporting tea
Transporting tea, under CC BY 4.0
Tea pickers
Tea pickers, under CC BY 4.0
It is quite a long way from the tea-bush to a cup of tea. It starts that picking the tea leaves has to be done properly to assure the desired quality. Women seem to be particularly good at this: the pickers of Kerala have acquired quite a reputation! They wear a basket over their shoulders that they fill during the day with the leaves harvested. Then they meet at a gathering place: The amount picked is weighed, packaged and the amount of money due for their work is paid. If one approaches the women we see friendly , proud and impressive faces. The women are beautifully dressed even during the picking process and they knowo hwo to wear their garments to impress observers. Some even wear jewellery while they are harvesting, jewellry that was bought beause of their good work.

May be this is one typical feature of India: Even when doing common work people are often dressed as if for a celebration!


Typical faces of women picking tea

Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Teepflückerin
Teepflückerin, under CC BY 4.0
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Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tea-picker
Licensed under CC BY 4.0

All photos were taken by the author in 2012 in Munnar/Kerala and are part of the archive "picture flood Jontes"“