Bitter Sweet Tea Drops

Interview by Massimiliano Clausi/ LAIF

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A Tamil lady collecting tea leaves in the plantation. A supervisor holding a colored umbrella constantly watches over the workers to make sure they collect only the ripe ones, scolding them when they leave some of them behind. The pluckers are paid by the weight of their harvest. A minimum of 16 kilos is required to receive the daily basic wage of around 2,50 Euro.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A Tamil tea plucker carrying her harvest up hill at the end of the morning shift.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A Tamil woman and her baby standing in their home's doorway. Most of the Tamil workforce still live in the so called line- rooms built by the British more than a hundred years ago. These military-like accommodations host more than one family in each room with two wells and pits for over fifty resident families.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A Tamil man in the workers' compound inside the tea plantation. Men carry out part-time odd jobs in the fields, like roads fixing, cleaning and cutting of overgrown plants and fertilizing. Nonetheless the heavy part of the job still weights on the women's shoulders, who work long hours and are paid less than their husbands.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A Tamil tea plucker and her only son resting in their line-room by the light of an old oil lamp. Even though electicricity has reached these remote hill areas, few families can actually afford it.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - Tea pluckers waiting to have their harvest weighted at the mid-day break. A minimum of 16 kilos is required to receive the basic wage of around 2,50 Euro. When, as it often happens, the rain makes the tea leaves heavier, a 2 kilos excess is demanded as a counterweight to the water.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - Tea pluckers waiting to have their harvest weighted at the mid-day break. A minimum of 16 kilos is required to receive the basic wage of around 2,50 Euro. When, as it often happens, the rain makes the tea leaves heavier, a 2 kilos excess is demanded as a counterweight to the water.

 

Hill Country, Kandy District, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A view of the plantation area around Hutton in the Hill Country, the central area of the country where the vast of majority of tea produce comes from. Due to its unique mix of humidity and altitude, since the half of the 19th century it has ben exploited by the British empire in the intensive cultivation of tea to be exported all over the world

 

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2010 - A tea auction taking place at the Chamber of Commerce of Colombo.Local and international firms like Lipton, Unilever and Twinings make their offers to buy the best quality tea. In 2009, the tea trade amounted to an estimated 85 million Euros, but few of that money has been reinvested to make things better for the workers who still lack a proper retirement program and health care.