I step out of my Jeep, walk towards him and am surprised by what I see. He looks like he came from a movie set. A brown, leather jacket, shorts, green football socks up to his knees and safety shoes. We shake hands and walk over to the aged sitting room. Everything is PINK. Everything. I try to remember every excruciating detail of it, because to whip out my camera and take a picture of it would be rude. It’s a pity though, it looks more like the movie set he’s supposed to come from. We sit opposite each other on two leather sofa’s, and let me repeat it one more time.. The walls are pink. In the meantime of observing the ‘pinkness’ of the room, I also happen to notice a giant teddy bear next to the farmer. I hope for him that it’s his daughters, because the sight of him and a teddy bear makes me want to laugh out loud. I hold it in though.
There’s a lot of awkward pauses and keeping up the conversation is getting harder by the minute. Sometimes he asks me something, and i try to make my replies as lengthy as possible. Another awkward pauses ensues after I’m finished. It smells of mothballs and I can hear the clock ticking. A small, fast pacing man comes into the room. He looks a bit scared. He starts serving tea. Afterwards I learn he's the head butler of the family and that I am their first foreign guest ever, which explains why he looked scared to me. The intensity of the quietness only makes the butler more nervous, and his hands shake when pouring the tea into the cups. Oops. I pour some milk into the tea.
Now the farmer starts talking. Apparently, the tea needed more milk and he starts talking about flavours and the different tastes of tea from his field. We’ve broken the ice on the conversation. That took so long. We talk and drink tea. This business, together with the tasty tea they have, are also socially really good to their employees. Tomorrow I will be seeing and experiencing this firsthand. Each employee (there’s about a hundred of them) lives on the plantation en get’s a free house, healthcare and schooling for the kids. Tomorrow when it's light outside I will go take a look in the school and at people’s homes. We will also be going to the factory for a bit. Also, we will be paying a night visit to the night keeper of the factory, because even when the lights go out, the process of tea goes on.
underneath the stars
The processing of tea leaves that get plucked during the day always gets done at night. During the night the leaves wilt so that they can start the process of drying in the morning. We walk over to the factory and I stare at the stars. They’re bright. I’ve got my fingers crossed for good weather tomorrow, so I can take awesome pictures. The factory is more than a 100 years old, its an old building with old stained glass. It’s dark inside which gives a mysterious and exciting vibe to the whole thing. We walk over to the second floor, and I can smell the aroma of tea leaves. They’re wilting I get told. This resembles a lot of the other plantations I have seen. Long, big lanes where tea leaves wilt and warm air gets blown from underneath them to speed up the process. Depending on the humidity and weather conditions the leaves meld here. When the tour finishes, we walk back out.
Short, frantic steps