Work on our tea plantations
The harvest of our tea is ongoing throughout most of the year. Al tea from our plantations are picked by hand in the traditional manner. The best season for harvesting tea is in September, and our UVA Quality Season is the tea, which is harvested precisely at this time.
No matter the season we pick our tea leaves two days before they are generally considered to be ready for plucking. The younger tender leaves gives the tea a light and elegant flavor.
Skilled plantation workers who are educated in their field, are an important part of our business. Therefore, we have broken with the Sri Lankan tradition to treat and reward tea-pickers very poor.
Traditionally, the hard job of tea picking are done by women, and in many places they work 12 hours a day on the steep slopes, for a payment they can not live on.
Our employees in our plantations are plucking tea for a maximum of six hours a day. We are paying a much higher salary than the big plantations and provide health insurance and a pension system.
Passing by Passara
It is green as far as the eye can see, as we round a turn on a steep mountain road rolling into the sprawling tea-plantions filled with fine rows of carefully trimmed tea bushes.
The new buds are bright green in the sun and will become some of the finest teas here from the island with a light, flowery taste. We are heading to Chaplon Tea Estate near the town of Passara in the UVA district of Sri Lanka.
Passing through Passara and the road climbs up a steep dirt road. A sleepy cow blocks the road temporarily, until the plantation emerges like a small paradise of deep green shrubs overshadowed by large trees that lets the sun shimmer on the slope at 1,700 meters altitude.
Here tea is grown after Japanese principles and without pesticides. The workers, who have just collected the day’s harvest, have health plans and a salary which is around twice the current average of the large tea plantations of 500 rupees a day.
The workers go walking on the steep slopes with a large wicker basket on their backs, as they fill them up with the top tender leaves from top buds of the tea bushes. Two leaves and a bud from each shot. There must be thousands of leaves to reach the 20 kg, which is a normal day’s harvest for a tea picker.
Hussein is the manager of the plantation and he shows us around and explains how extracts of local plants and a deliberate use of compost makes spraying and poison unnecessary. He shows how high and scrubby grass is removed by hand and is allowed to compost between the tea bushes and he points at the wild plants that are used to keep pests at bay.
It is early afternoon, and the four tea pickers on work today, finished the day’s six hours of picking work and have taken their best clothes in honor of the guests visiting the plantation.
They show the pile of fresh tea leaves, which are gathered behind the small house where they eat and the change clothes, and where they can cook during their lunch breaks. It is experienced pickers who used to work for a miserable salary and they are happy with the new working times at Chaplon, which enables them to help their children and grandchildren to get a better education than they got.
The pickers are on the way home, waving before they disappear between the steep paths between the plantation and the small plots of land around it.