Tracing the origins of Sri Lankan tea pickers



Would You Like A Cup of Sri Lankan Tea?


Sri Lanka tea pickers




Tea lovers already know that Sri Lanka is world famous (world’s No. 2 exporter) for its tea and the tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for the country. Sri Lanka has six main growing regions, each with its own weather patterns and unique geographical features. Lowland teas may be found just inland at elevations beginning at 1,500 feet above sea level, while highland ones are situated as high as 8,000 feet. 

Sri lankan Tea Pickers

The consistently warm climate, heavy rainy seasons and the high humidity lead to almost nonstop tea production all year around. No matter where they are grown, all tea leaves are brought to the capital city of Colombo to be exported around the world. This is already well known to everyone, but what most of the people still don't know is the story behind this big industry, I mean the lives of the workers. 


Sri Lankan Tea Pickers


They live in poverty and their lives are getting tougher and tougher day by day. When you cross Nuwara Eliya or other tea cities you can see from the street the tea pickers at work. Tourists and travellers often stop by the road just to take some good photos of the labours at work and nobody goes deep inside the paths to see what's really happening behind this scenic view. Men and women, work from dawn to sunset in order to collect more possible leaves (only the first three leaves). Seems like they harvest around 18 kg per day to earn not more than 3 euros; they have to work quickly under the hot sun to fill their baskets before their takings are weighed and added up at the end of the day. The tea labours are immigrant Indians brought from South India by British plantation owners in the earlier 1850s to work on their tea estates.
Sri Lankan Tea Pickers


Until now the community is quite gated with poor connections toward the rest of the country. If you take a walk among the plantations you can see their hidden villages. Their houses are small and essential with a roof made of iron sheets weighted down with few stones.
Sri Lankan Tea Pickers


According to what they said and to what we saw, it seems they don’t get enough money from their hard work to get to eat a full meal. They have no electricity, they have no running water in the houses and the only toilets are outside for common use. Their poor life condition is the reason why when they are photographed by tourists they ask money. They are not getting any help and it seems that the government is not giving any assistance to this people in order to provide their development. It should provide at least a better education for their children which could be an only way to raise them up from their life conditions. So it is not only about the picturesque scenery by the street but it is much more behind that!!!
Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

Sri Lankan Tea Pickers

11 comments:

  1. oh, i feel the situation of those laborers, they are work so hard but not enough for their basic needs and the government doesn't give any support to them. I hope someday or soon their government prioritized them as you mention they are the top 2 world producers of tea.

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  2. It's interesting the way you have captured the way of life of the Sri Lankan tea growers. I hope policymakers wake up to the abject poverty they are living in and I am glad you have created a blog about them in order to create awareness.

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  3. your photos really shed light on the issue. It is great that you are bringing awareness to this situation since so many of us drink tea. Not many of us know what is going on in that part of the world so thank you for bringing this to our attention. Hopefully something can be done soon.

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  4. Oh! That is really sad. We hardly get to see this facet of life.
    The old man standing in fron of his hut makes a very sad picture. Hoping the best for them.

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    1. yep that is really sad! Specially if you think they produce the number 2 tea

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  5. Thanks for sharing on the plight of these tea pickers. Are you aware of organizations that are helping them ? Is this the expected income or are they being short changed ?

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  6. I must admit that I love tea - so this would be heaven for me. I hope they're treated better though, kinda sad seeing the photos.

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  7. I don't drink tea. But do drink green tea. I know Sri Lankan tea is famous. And when I visit there, I will not forget to bring some back for my family.

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  8. It is a little sad to see the plight of these workmen. I do hope that there is some action taken to make things better for them by the Government, especially given that the produce is not doing so bad! Thanks for sharing this story.

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  9. I love Sri Lankan tea but looking at a side from their life is really sad :(

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  10. For 3 euros the labourers have to pick 18 kilos of tea leaves? This is downright unjustified and exploitative. I wish the Sri Lankan government made the working conditions of the plantation workers better.

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