An Indian tea plantation

Venue: Somewhere in Kerala, India

Lens: Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

Music: Jack Buchanon – Everything stops for tea (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGQASun9d8E)

Today’s post brings me back one year and a half ago to the scenic roads and stunning nature of India’s southwest, the state of Kerala. Apart from the more popular tourist destinations there (to follow soon), we had the amazing luck of stumbling along our road on an authentic tea plantation that was built sometime in the 1920es and has practically remained unchanged to this day! So, come join me in this calm and peaceful journey through time to see how generations after generations of Tamil people produce one of the world’s favorite hot beverages. I should of course emphasize that apart from the breathtaking views, working in a tea plantation is surely far from an easy job. I think the international companies still owning most of the plantations in India and Sri Lanka manage to exploit their workers to a level that would be completely unacceptable in other parts of the world. In the same time I could also very clearly see the beautiful simplicity and joy in the humble way of life of the people there despite the poor living conditions. Maybe some food for thought over your next cup of tea?

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This is the entrance of the tea plantation and the small village where some of the workers live along the road. If you really zoom in at the first house, you’ll see a little kid playing with his grandfather at the entrance.
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On the other side of the road there was a very richly decorated Catholic church, one of many in this region. Kerala is the place in India where Catholicism is very strong. The Indian version of Christianity is truly unique as it incorporates some Hindu practices as well, as obvious from the very unusual (for a European) exterior of the churches.
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Now we are walking on the main road inside the tea plantation. We later learned that we came exactly during the one-hour lunch break, which in retrospect explains the lack of workers on most of my photos. Note that tea grows constantly and is picked every single day of the year, meaning that it is not customary for workers to be given vacation off the plantation grounds.
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Another dreamy photo with the seemingly never-ending curvy hills planted with tea.
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A small walking alley bringing us to the next hill…
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.. and another beautiful hill with carefully trimmed bushes of tea.
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We are getting closer to the factory building (on the top photo and below), where all the tree leaves are collected, dried and packaged.
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As already advertised, the factory was built around a century ago and practically nothing has changed since then in the manufacturing process.
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These are the houses where most workers live with their entire families, all their lives. The first generation of Tamil workers was brought to this place from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu many decades ago, and now their grandsons and granddaughters are the main working force.
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Lunch break is now over and some women are already on their way to their designated field for the day.
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This is the production manager, who gave us a nice walking tour around the whole factory. Unfortunately no photos were allowed, so you’ll have to believe me that the experience was truly like walking back in time.
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Almost all processing of the tea is still done manually with the help of some basic machinery. The main task in the factory is to dry up the leaves keeping a strictly controlled level of humidity in them and then sorting the dried up leaves by size. Tea quality (to first approximation) is predetermined by choosing whether only the top leaves are picked or the entire plant. This distinguishes between white and oolong tea (top leaves = best quality), green tea (the next few leaves are picked up as well) or black tea (the entire plant). Probably the worst room for the workers was in the phase of rapid drying of the tea leaves. The temperature inside was around 45-50 degrees Celsius and the humidity almost 100%.
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A last shot on our way out of the tea plant and back into the 21st century. I wish I could visit this place every two weeks or so to bring back the overarching feeling of peace and order in the world.

10 thoughts on “An Indian tea plantation

  1. Absolutely glorious photos , we haven’t been to that part of India but it does bring back memories of our visit 5 years ago to Ooty in Tamil Nadu , it brought about a love of Nilgiri and Blue Mountain Teas ! We went to a tea factory on the outskirts of Ooty and the machinery was ancient , they took us for a drive up to the Emerald Valley and the Tea plantations clinging to the mountain sides are amazing !

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  2. A brilliant visual narration, as always. I particularly loved this post because I am actually from Kerala, from a small town called Palghat 🙂 I can absolutely relate to the simplicity of the people, and the breathtaking vistas that the place has to offer.

    Like

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