Picking the most precious tea is a race against time for elderly women

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/26 19:28:39

Zhang Dongxia picks tea in a field on a mountain in Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu Province. Photo: IC


 

The workers sleep on blankets laid over their dormitory’s cold concrete floor. Photo: IC


 

The workers sleep on blankets laid over their dormitory’s cold concrete floor. Photo: IC


 

The tea-pickers work from dawn ’til dusk every day for a month in the run-up to Qingming Festival. Photo: IC


 

Women process tea they picked during the day. Photo: IC


 

A woman’s hand turns red from cold in the early morning mountain air. Photo: IC


 
From dawn to dusk, Zhang Dongxia is busy picking  leaves on a vast tea farm in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province. In China, tea picked in early spring before the Qingming Festival when people show respect to their ancestors is considered particularly precious.

A popular saying among tea lovers goes "Tea before Qingming is as precious as gold." Some high-end tea varieties picked at this time can be sold for as much as 2,400 yuan ($349) per kilogram.

Every year, Zhang, a middle-aged woman from East China's Anhui Province, comes to Nanjing to pick tea with other villagers from her hometown. Most people working in the tea fields around the city are elderly or middle-aged women like her.

They usually spend one month on the farm as tea prices drop sharply after Grain Rain, the 6th solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar that comes shortly after Qingming. They return home after the busy season to take care of their grandchildren.

Those women can pick around a kilogram of tea every day. Tea leaves are delicate and thin before Qingming Festival, and they can make 80 yuan for every half a kilogram of tea they pick. The women consider this to be a decent wage and save nearly every penny.

The women live among the tea fields and work as long as it is bright enough to see what they are doing.

Zhang says that the work leaves her eyes and wrists particularly sore. When she first started picking tea, she says she could barely stand up straight after a day's hard labor.

More than 20 tea-pickers have to share one dormitory that even lacks beds. The women sleep on blankets laid over the cold concrete floor.

The farm's owner said that the villagers living around Nanjing don't want to do this backbreaking job anymore, so he has to source workers from poorer regions such as Anhui.

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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