Tea pluckers are mostly women and their daily routine begin early at around four or five as the dawning sun rise from the west merrily bringing cheer to the mildly moisten tea leaves on yards of tea plantations. Tea pluckers’ generally wears loose fitting clothes to tackle with the unexpected weather conditions at the fields, also covering their heads with a scarf like protective to be safe from scorching sun and humid falls. They tie the basket tight on to their backs to which they toss the leaves they pluck. And with complete best affordable gear they walk mostly with bare foot to tea estate they work for and begin plucking leaves from the bottom of the hill roughly around the time of eight in the morning.
A majority of tea plantation workers are women, and it continues to be one of the few jobs accessible to Upcountry Tamil women born into the plantations. The large numbers of women in the plantation workforce gives it a gendered as well as class and ethnic character.
Tea plucking is still carried out by hand. This is exhausting and time-consuming work, which is done to make high quality tea, where uniformity and quality in the plucking play a crucial role in the final product.
The action, an art in itself. Speed, accuracy, absorption is what’s required. The pluckers, the overwhelming majority women, take the twig between the thumb and the index finger, and with a sudden twist of the wrist downwards, snap off a bunch of leaves and throw it into the basket balanced on their heads. The movement must be made as swiftly as possible so as not to damage the leaves.