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Darjeeling Tea Estate

Susan Kessler | West Bengal, India

Winding road through a tea plantation.

At the foothills of the Himalayas, in West Bengal, India, lies the city of Darjeeling. It’s elevation of 6,710 ft. (2,050 m.) above sea level, combined with it’s cool, moist climate, rich soil and generous amounts of rainfall come together to create perfect conditions for growing and producing tea—for which the region has become world-renown.

The steep mountain slopes preclude the use of trucks or tractor-mounted machinery, so the tea leaves are plucked by hand, usually by the women. Only the top one to two inches are picked; these buds being called “flushes”. After plucking, they are immediately dried and further processed in a factory on site. This is where the men generally work, in addition to supervising in the fields.

Tea workers and their families receive modest housing, an education for their children, monetary allowances, and other benefits. A glimpse into the lives of the tea workers revealed a very simple and primitive, yet seemingly content and peaceful existence.

I found the lives of the tea estate families to be peaceful, content, and even serene. Their houses, though very basic, are set in some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. They are living a profoundly simple life, seemingly from another time.

Photographing people of different cultures creates bonds and empathy for others, as we realize the common thread of humanity that connects us all. This understanding and compassion in turn, can lead to a more peaceful coexistence among diverse populations.  

Susan Kessler

skesslerphoto@gmail.com

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