Which is the hill station in South India, well known for its landscape, dotted with lush green tea plantations? I’m sure all local and foreign tourists & travelers know about this place.
It was my second trip to Munnar. The place is absolutely stunning with an infinite sea of tea gardens and mostly misty with occasional drizzles.
A glimpse of the landscape of Munnar
I spotted a group of women plucking the wet tea leaves.
Tea is the world’s favorite drink (no offence to coffee lovers :P), with a rich legacy starting with the Chinese. And tea grown in Munnar, taking into account its climate, growing conditions, sunshine, rain and altitude, has a distinguished flavor and aroma, quite popular among tea aficionados.
Munnar also has the world’s highest organic tea plantations, that is, tea grown here is in the organic manner, without the use of any chemicals.
Mahalakshmi, a tea plantation worker I met works for around ten hours per day, sometimes even more. She and her friends walk long distances from their homes to the plantations. They told me that wages paid are very less, despite the strike that took place two years back.
Mahalakshmi: a worker at the plantation
Machines are not used to pluck tea leaves as it spoils the leaf quality and for many other reasons.
These women are often exposed to bad working conditions and face ailments like knee damage, back pain and sometimes even uterus damage! In order to increase production and plucking efficiency they are not allowed to take breaks too.
The women pluck the tea leaves, and gather them in the bamboo baskets behind them. They then pass these leaves to the ladies below the hills to be collected together.
A worker spotted amidst the tea plantations
Tea processing requires many crucial conditions, one of them being a good and careful plucking skill. The liquoring quality of tea is counted in terms of its oxidize-able content and caffeine. An average plucking standard should comprise of a certain percentage of leaves, buds and course leaves. Damages due to plucking are also taken care of, as it widely affects the quality of the leaf. Thus, the perfect tea powder starts its journey from the time of its harvest.
It is some sort of an art, that these ladies possess, and hence it is definitely to be appreciated!