This is what Saroja a tea plucker in the hill country estates of Sri Lanka has to say….
“The best quality teas around the world is always harvested by hand and guarantee that only the best top two leaves and buds are picked. There are hundreds or even thousands of tea harvesters known as pluckers that live in tea estates. I am one of them.
My name is Saroja and I am 35 years old. I live in the beautiful Helbodda Estate that is located in the Premium Valley of Ceylon Tea, Pussellawa in Sri Lanka.
I became a tea plucker just as I finished school, like my mother and all my female relatives. I am married to Nallamuththu, who works as a machine operator in our estate tea factory. We have two daughters who are 13 and 15 years of age and attend the same school in the village where me and Nallamuththu first met.
I was born to a generation of tea pluckers, who crafted the art of picking tea for over 140 years. After completing my education at school, I wanted to quickly work in the fields with my mother, and now, work in the same line that she does. My father used to work as a assistant store keeper in a tea storage warehouse but now he is retired.
My parents and their ancestors have all lived in this area for many, many years. They were originally brought to Sri Lanka from the south district of India known as Tamil Nadu, to work in the tea estates.
I have one older brother and one younger sister, who like me and my husband, work in the tea fields as well. My parents frequently visit me on Sundays and holidays. I enjoy spending time with them and make sure me and my family visits them at least once a week too.
When I was young, I used to tag along with my mother and her sisters to the tea fields during my school vacation. That’s how I got interested in becoming a tea plucker. I used to ask my mother to teach me how to pluck tea. She taught me everything I know of today. I think I am as good as my mother and my grandmother now.
It is not easy being tea plucker. It demands a lot of physical energy but we are committed and dedicated. Sometimes we work in the pouring rain and most of the time in the hot sun. We have to walk up steep hills for about 2 kilometers and visit outlining fields too.
Each plucker is allocated with their own row in the fields which has to be visited every 7 to 10 days to pluck the leaf, careful selection of leaf leaving sufficient buds for the next plucking rounds, cleaning and tidy the tea bushes, ensuring “Plucking Table” in orderly manner all the time. We pay close care and attention to the plants and know exactly when the leaves have to be plucked.
We have a goal to meet each day and if we do well and exceed our goal, we are rewarded with a bonus. So there is a good benefit to efficient and hard working people like me. Our company is kind to us and provide us many things of which free housing, free medical care, childcare and schooling are the most important for me.
My parents and ancestors have all been in the tea industry for decades. The skills and experiences which were acquired by them from their ancestors have been passed down from generation to generation and one day, my daughter too wants to become a tea plucker. With enough of practice and guidance she can master the technique of a good plucker, and I will do my best to teach her.”
Saroja is one of the many hundreds of workers enjoying the benefits of fair trade partnerships and ethical trade relationships which enable them to look forward to a more secure and comfortable future. Origin Teas distributed by t- buds are picked by dedicated and fortunate pluckers like Saroja to bring that cup of ecstasy to your lips!