Friday, July 8, 2011

Sri Lanka - Tea Plantation

We stayed on a tea plantation about 1 hour outside Kandy at about 2600 feet.  It a most restful time and one of the things we both enjoyed most this trip.
The house was built in the 1930's as the plantation managers house.  We ate many meals on the front veranda overlooking the valley below. Ashburnham_estate  It is a working tea plantation and we can highly recommend it.

It has been purchased by a British owner and it was interesting to hear the views of various people attached to the property about  Sri Lanka, rather than our brief observations as passing tourists.  Issues about bureaucracy, ethnic tension (which was often overshadowed by the war with the Tamils), about the Tamil conflict, and how tea is grown.

Tea bushes have a productive life of about 45 years and are cut back to the stump every 4 years to keep the woody growth under control.  The bush needs to be plucked about every 10 days so the estate is broken into blocks to achieve this.
Generally only women pluck tea.  It is a delicate operation, nibbling the new growth 2 leaves and a bud.  Apparently men given the task, rip off all the leaves - for bulk rather than quality :-).  The bags they carry on their heads weigh up to 25kg.  Andrew did try lifting one and found it challenging.

In the 1970's Sri Lankas plantations were acquired by the government and many fell into bad repair.  gradually they have been sold again and production/quality is improving

The pickers pick 6 days a week.  Starting at 7 in the morning and stopping for morning tea, lunch etc.  The day's weighing is done about 4pm each day.

Leaves are packed into bags weighing 15kg and the truck from the tea factory comes around to pick up the bags each evening.  Much of Sri Lanka's tea goes to the Middle East, whereas India's goes to Europe

There are about 36 families accommodated on the estate.  Where they live is referred to as the labour lines.  Traditionally women have worked and the grandmothers have looked after the children.  But this is changing as many prefer to go to work each day in the towns, and the grandmothers are doing the picking instead. 

Isn't it lovely how the tourists stand and watch the work being done.

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