From tea to chai

Sreedeep | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 10, 2017

The labour that goes behind every cup of tea is backbreaking, yet remains hidden

Almost the entire country wakes up to this drink in some form — brewed in milk or water, with or without sugar. Tea is intrinsically tied to morning rituals. From warming up to a new day, to being essential to conversations; from an accompaniment to refreshments, to endless social engagements, it plays an important social role.

This is what goes into every sip: centuries of colonial plantation history, hours of labour withstanding the sun and the rain, meticulous plucking of the freshest leaves, series of mechanised crushing, rolling, packing; and most importantly — a passion for tea. Only the fresh leaves on top make it to the factory. Labourers are paid a paltry amount of 300 for a day that includes nine hours of hard labour.

While the finest leaves are hand plucked, a tea processing machine chops the rest of the leaves to produce regular tea. Leaves are gathered and transported to the factory at the end of the day. At the factory, the leaves are spread on withering troughs, after which a mixture of hot and cold air is passed through them for 12 hours. This removes the moisture from the leaves, before they are thrown into the crushing machine. Roughly 4,000 kg of leaves produce 1,000 kg of packaged tea dust.

Sreedeep is a fellow at CPACT at Shiv Nadar University

Published on November 10, 2017