Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation, India

14 images Created 9 Mar 2015

Munnar Province, Kerala, India. Kolukkumalai is the highest organic tea plantation in the world. It is on the border between the two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The tea is picked by women only. Men run the factory. As you can see in the photos, the female tea pickers wear men's shirts (not the traditional saris worn by much of the rest of India's female population). They also wrap themselves in a heavy fabric, so they are not scraped up by the sharp points of the tea bush branches. The tea leaves are either plucked by hand or snipped using the scissors connected to a square basket with a red and white or blue and white checked pattern. Once the basket is full, the leaves are tossed into a much larger bag, which is usually carried by each woman, using a strap around her forehead, so that it hangs down her back. This takes a lot of neck strength, needless to say. They also stand all day in the fields wearing thin flip flops. They seem to talk constantly with each other and while I photographed them, the talk was punctuated with some self conscious laughter. They had me try picking the leaves as well. Hard work! We parted with many hugs.
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