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Brewing Southern tea stories

Coorg

A dozen young women chatter as they furiously shear bright leaves from tea plants that stretch like a green carpet across the plantation. Their colourful saris and gold necklaces glisten in the sun as they fill huge brown sacks to be taken back to the on-site factory and weighed. One lady even needs two burly men to help her lift the bag onto the scale, and I cannot help but gasp when the manager tells me that the sack weighs a whopping 80 kilograms.

“They’re really productive workers,” explains manager Bobby KJ. “The minimum they have to pick a day is 25 kilos and they get a bonus for every 10 kilos after. “The average is 150 kilos per person per day. But some can pick up to 300.” In a time of technological advances, it’s hard to believe that such manual work goes into making a simple cup of tea.

But during a visit to the Glenlorna Tea Estate, in the heart of Coorg in southern India, I quickly discover that the old ways are definitely the best. More than 300 families live and work in the fields and know little of the hustle and bustle of life outside the plantation. Their washing lines waft in the breeze at the front of their wooden houses, which are a short walk away from an on-site medical centre built for the workers.

The employees work eight hours a day picking leaves in a 365 day operation in the only tea plantation in Coorg. The fresh aroma of tea is overwhelming as I walk from room to room of the factory, where the tea leaves are dried, grounded and filtered ready for auction. Tea plantations are a rare operation in Coorg, as production is mainly confined to the north of India because the weather conditions are better. But the importance of tea to Indian culture is evident no matter what part of the country you are in.

Visiting the nearby Cottabetta Bungalow, the first thing I am offered as I am greeted by the staff is a steaming pot of tea. I have a new sense of appreciation for my brew after seeing the work that goes into my favourite beverage. “Tea is a part of Indian life,” says Gautam Prakash, head of Plantation Trails at Tata Coffee Limited. “It’s the beverage of choice. It’s part of every meal. You start the day in the morning with a nice cup of tea and it will be served throughout the day.”

Read the full report here, Bedford Today

 

 

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