The flowers of the tea field
About 350 women pick the 60 tea fields (nearly 300 hectares) at Glenburn Tea Estate. Their children attend school on the plantation, and babes in arms are brought to the tea fields. A nurse maid keeps watch, or the mothers take turns, while the others pick and sometimes sing. Five generations of families have worked these fields.
It's the women who do the picking, a long tradition and belief that the delicate hands of a woman are required to give the tea the most gentle treatment. The tea pickers we met were a little camera shy, but they smiled a lot. They were curious about us, too.
Such beautiful women
Picking tea in the rain, very common in the monsoon season
The tea bushes in Darjeeling are trained into tables, flat surfaces that make for efficient tea picking. In China, by contrast, the bushes are rounder which maximizes surface area. It takes more than 1,000 shoots to make a pound of tea. Pickers are paid by weight, and on average can pick about 8.5 kilograms (~18.7 pounds) per work day. During the monsoon season, the numbers may be much higher due to the enthusiastic growth of the bushes. Salaries are government regulated.
The sky is grey, the rain is heavy but her smile is bright
Though the setting is almost too beautiful to be true in the tea fields of Darjeeling, the picking is real-life hard work. The tea fields are sloped, requiring balance and leg strength. The baskets get heavy and the weather conditions can vary from cool and rainy to humid and warm. Few of us in the US would have the stamina or skill to make it even one day with these women. Each time I drink a cup, I send out my thanks to these women with the pretty smiles, deft hands and strong muscles.
Another flower in the tea field - camellia sinensis