Whenever you travel to Kerala or any other tea plantation, an activity that you must try to do is – pluck tea leaves from a tea bush. Please don’t be fooled, it’s definitely not as easy as it seems.
For starters this activity begins very early in the morning, when the overnight dew is still present. If you wake up early enough, you will see numerous women walking along the hills with the baskets on their head to start this daily task (and these baskets are definitely not light in weight). They carry on this activity on a difficult hilly terrain, and at times even battling against cold, mist, rainfall and so on.
Physical hardships aside there is also an art of plucking the right leaves and in the right manner.
They pluck only the most tender leaves / smallest shoots and the bud, that too by extremely gentle hands. Picking is performed by pulling the leaves with a snap of the forearm, arm, or even the shoulders, with the picker grasping the tea shoot using the thumb and forefinger, with the middle finger sometimes used in combination.
These efficient pluckers are majorly women and they are so quick and skilful at this, that it is almost impossible to follow the motion of their hands and fingers as they pluck. The action is – pluck with the right hand and then put in the basket and when the right hand is in the basket, the left hand is plucking. Speak about efficiency.
And when you drive along these hills in the evening you see baskets and baskets filled with these leaves, lying along the way, waiting to be picked up by the tea trucks.
So the next time you visit any of these tea plantations and see numerous colors (pluckers) interspersed in between green tea plantations, do stop and try your hand at this at least once. Though I realised that this is not my calling, it is most definitely fun. 🙂
P.S – Did you know that it requires 22,000 such shoots and leaves, all plucked by hand – to produce 1 Kg of Tea? Well I definitely didn’t but I do remember it now whenever I enjoy my cuppa of tea. 🙂