Sri Lanka Tea
Jerry Redfern
Far from the tsunami-ravaged coastlines and hours from the war-troubled north, inland Sri Lanka is covered in tea. It’s a legacy of the British, who planted these hills with a cash crop that still defines the character of Sri Lankan hill country today. The country produces 300,000 tonnes of tea each year, third in the world behind India and China. Thousands of Tamil pickers toil in hot sun, harsh winds and shivering rain. They live with their families in company towns among the hills, surviving on just a few dollars a day. It’s a harsh life in an exquisite land.

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  • A tea picker hikes up a trail through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.

 
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.A tea picker hikes up a trail through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.

 
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
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      Nuwara Eliya, Central Province, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: A tea picker hikes up a trail through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US. Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • M. Meenabal picks tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley. 

On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.M. Meenabal picks tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley. 

On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
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      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: M. Meenabal picks tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley. On her back she carries a sack with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US. Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • Women pick tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley.

 On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.Women pick tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley.

 On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
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    • jre03154.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: Women pick tea on the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, on a hillside overlooking a massive valley. On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US. Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • Six-year-old Badideyi and a friend haul loads of firewood gathered from between tea plants on the Dambatene Plantation. They use it to heat their homes in the cold and damp Sri Lanka's highlands.
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
Six-year-old Badideyi and a friend haul loads of firewood gathered from between tea plants on the Dambatene Plantation. They use it to heat their homes in the cold and damp Sri Lanka's highlands.
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
    • Add to lightbox
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    • jre03164.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: Six-year-old Badideyi and a friend haul loads of firewood gathered from between tea plants on the Dambatene Plantation. They use it to heat their homes in the cold and damp Sri Lanka's highlands. Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A woman holds up a handful of silvertip tea leaves, plucked on a plantation near Haputale.A woman holds up a handful of silvertip tea leaves, plucked on a plantation near Haputale.
  • A woman finishes off a hot cup of tea in a cafe in Haputale, a center for tea growing in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.A woman finishes off a hot cup of tea in a cafe in Haputale, a center for tea growing in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
  • Two people take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. 

Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure.

The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.Two people take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. 

Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure.

The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.
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      Kilinochchi, Northern Province, Sri Lanka - 01/11/2004: Two people take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure. The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A Tamil tea picker takes a break to re-adjust her load on a hillside plantation near Haputale.A Tamil tea picker takes a break to re-adjust her load on a hillside plantation near Haputale.
  • A woman at the Dambatenne Tea Factory sorts different grades of tea into hoppers. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.A woman at the Dambatenne Tea Factory sorts different grades of tea into hoppers. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.
  • Tea pickers hike up a road through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.Tea pickers hike up a road through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US.


Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
    • Add to lightbox
    • Contact the contributor about this file
    • jre03147.jpg
      Nuwara Eliya, Central Province, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: Tea pickers hike up a road through the tea plantations covering the hillsides surrounding Nuwara Eliya. On their backs they carry sacks with silvertip tea leaves. Common tea plantation practice holds that pickers who bring in less than 12 kilos of tea a day get half-pay. A day's full pay is about $1.40 US. Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A close-up view of mature tea plants growing along a roadside in a plantation near Haputale.A close-up view of mature tea plants growing along a roadside in a plantation near Haputale.
  • Cups of testing tea sit after grading at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.Cups of testing tea sit after grading at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.
  • Morning mists settle among the tea plantations.Morning mists settle among the tea plantations.
  • A man finishes off a hot cup of tea in a cafe in Haputale, a center for tea growing in Sri Lanka. 
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.A man finishes off a hot cup of tea in a cafe in Haputale, a center for tea growing in Sri Lanka. 
Sri Lanka's central highlands are world-renown for the tea grown there.
  • A local, left, and a teenage member of the Tamil Tigers take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. 

The Tamil Tigers are accused by the UN of forcibly conscripting child soldiers in their war against the Sri Lankan government.

Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure.

The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.A local, left, and a teenage member of the Tamil Tigers take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. 

The Tamil Tigers are accused by the UN of forcibly conscripting child soldiers in their war against the Sri Lankan government.

Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure.

The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.
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    • View more from 'Sri Lankan Peace Talks Scheduled for Feb 2004'
    • jre03264.jpg
      Kilinochchi, Northern Province, Sri Lanka - 08/12/2004: A local, left, and a teenage member of the Tamil Tigers take their morning tea and pastries at a teashop in Kilinochchi, the administrative town for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers are accused by the UN of forcibly conscripting child soldiers in their war against the Sri Lankan government. Northern Sri Lanka is divided into areas partially controlled by the Sri Lankan Army and areas completely controlled by LTTE, which has set up a fully functioning micro-state. They have police, radar speed-detectors, tax collectors and a social services infrastructure. The LTTE is fighting for a Tamil homeland in north Sri Lanka.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory stops for a minute over a sifting machine. The tea in this room is for Sri Lankan consumption; the best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea goes abroad.
Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.
A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory stops for a minute over a sifting machine. The tea in this room is for Sri Lankan consumption; the best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea goes abroad.
Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.
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    • jre03166.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory stops for a minute over a sifting machine. The tea in this room is for Sri Lankan consumption; the best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea goes abroad. Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • Sacks of tea for export wait for transport at the Dambatenne Tea Factory.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.Sacks of tea for export wait for transport at the Dambatenne Tea Factory.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
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    • jre03171.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: Sacks of tea for export wait for transport at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day. The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A tea grader at the Dambatenne Tea Factory takes notes on harvested leaves and on the women who picked them in a massive ledger.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.A tea grader at the Dambatenne Tea Factory takes notes on harvested leaves and on the women who picked them in a massive ledger.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
    • Add to lightbox
    • Contact the contributor about this file
    • jre03174.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: A tea grader at the Dambatenne Tea Factory takes notes on harvested leaves and on the women who picked them in a massive ledger. Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day. The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory sorts bags of freshly picked tea leaves.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory sorts bags of freshly picked tea leaves.


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
    • Add to lightbox
    • Contact the contributor about this file
    • jre03176.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: A worker in the Dambatenne Tea Factory sorts bags of freshly picked tea leaves. Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day. The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • Workers leave the Dambatenne Tea Factory at the end of their shift. 


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.Workers leave the Dambatenne Tea Factory at the end of their shift. 


Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day.


The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
    • Add to lightbox
    • Contact the contributor about this file
    • jre03172.jpg
      Haputale, Uva, Sri Lanka - 01/12/2004: Workers leave the Dambatenne Tea Factory at the end of their shift. Sir Thomas Lipton built the factory in 1890, and 2,000 people work and live here today collecting and processing 25,000-30,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day. The best 90 percent of Sri Lankan tea is sold abroad.
      Credit: Jerry Redfern
  • Bags of freshly picked tea leaves await sorting and drying at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.Bags of freshly picked tea leaves await sorting and drying at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. The factory was built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton.

 

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