Tea plucking by men in Nepal

In some regions of the world, tea plucking is only done by women, while men are responsible for other jobs. It’s the case in India and central Sri Lanka, where men employed on the plantations tend the soil and prune the tea plants. Some people will tell you the reason for this is probably that women are more nimble-fingered and take better care of the fragile and precious leaves. 

But most of the time, like here in the north of Ilam Valley, eastern Nepal, opposite Darjeeling accross the border, the village men and women do the same tasks, including tea plucking. It is also the case in China and Taiwan. And in Japan, it is not rare to see a man carefully plucking the tea leaves and a woman behind the wheel of a tractor.

Is there really a reason for these practices? Well, let’s say that where the British used to be and where there are large tea plantations, the roles of men and women are different and the work is not always shared out in a way that seems fairest to us.

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Tea plants under canvas shaded from the sun

With the wonderful weather we’ve had in France over the past few days, we have to remember to protect ourselves from the sun.
Did you know that tea plants also need protection sometimes? Actually, this only happens in Japan, where there are two categories of tea: “light teas” and “shade teas”. “Light teas” (Sencha, Bancha, Tamaryokucha) are harvested and processed from bushes explosed to sunlight, whereas “shade teas” (Gyokuro, Kabuse, Tencha) are made from tea plants growing in he shade, or even in darkness. As a consequence, the plants are under stress and react to it by by taking more nutrients from the soil. This unusual treatment gives a well developed, smooth and full flavour (which the Japanese call umami) without any bitterness. In other words, a delight.
I took this photo near Nara. I was attracted by these neat rows of tea plants covered with a silvery-black canvas, glimmering in the sun. I stopped to watch them, fascinated by their dark brightness, as you might stop in the moonlight to gaze up at the stars.

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Fans for tea fields

Some sights in the tea fields in Japan are strange. The green rows of tea trees are covered with fans stuck up on top of numerous posts and their metal spikes give contrast to the soft aspects of spring. What can they actually be for? Give a little breeze when the sun is too hot? Certainly not! The fans will fully play their part in the middle of winter. They will be switched on in order to give the atmosphere a stir and prevent the layers of cold air to stay above the trees. These layers of cold air could indeed damage the small trees or slow down their growth.

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Tea harvesting is mechanized in Japan

In Japan, tea harvesting is highly mechanized. In the Shizuoka region, which is on the Makinohara plateau and where Sencha teas are produced, you come across some machines that have a very strange way of talking to the tea leaves. And yet these sharp, deft steel fingers don’t harm them. With extreme precision, this strange harvester takes just the most tender parts of the shoots.

Posted in Country : Japan by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Tea trees looking like traffic lights

At New Vithanakande (in the south of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka), to keep the tea plants at the right height, the trees serve as a kind of traffic light system: if you see green, the tea plant is not too high, if the green disappears it is the orange that shows, and the plants need to be cut lower, and if only the red shows, things have got out of hand!

Posted in Country : Sri Lanka, Tea plant by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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