A journey through tea country in Sri Lanka – on the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, meeting tea pluckers and their children, and a tour of a working tea factory.
We hop on the rickety blue train from Kandy and wind up and up through a sea of luscious green hills, each wave of tea plants so uniform it could have been stitched on. We sit at the opening of the carriages and hold on tight as the train wobbles over ancient arched bridges and through rural hamlets where Tamil women hang up their washing and children in school uniforms run alongside waving manically. At each station vendors hustle round the open carriage doors to flog snacks – peanuts and salty toasted corn kernels stuffed into pouches of stapled-up graph paper (complete with handwritten workings).
High up in the hills, we disembark into Sri Lanka’s tea country. Driving deeper into the tea plantations we come across children of all ages hopping, skipping and jumping home from school in impeccably smart uniforms. We meet colourfully-dressed Tamil tea pluckers who have descended from the fields to weigh their light green tea leaves. Some have plucked the buds of the tea plant at just the right moment before they have unfurled, to make prized silver tip white tea sold at 22,000 rupees per kilo (40 times more valuable than regular tea).
Among the tea pluckers children is Ashimi, a fearless five year old, who is most certainly the leader of the pack. She shows us around the school and the playground, and shows off her pink dress, already a natural in front of the camera.
A tour of Norwood Estate tea factory is an insight into how 120 hectares of tea leaves are plucked, dried, rolled, cut and packaged ready for auction in Colombo.
Caught on camera by Joe Crossley, notebook and camera in hand while sorting through the tea leaves.