It’s harvest time at an old Vietnamese tea garden

By Thanh Nguyen, Bao Uyen   September 8, 2018 | 07:11 pm GMT+7

Farmers work hard as one of the oldest tea gardens in the country turns a brilliant green.

Its that time of the year: Tea harvest season on Central Highland farm

Bien Ho is one of the oldest tea estates in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai. The first plants were grown here by the French in 1921. Today it is owned by Bien Ho tea company that grows 351 hectares of tea and more than 700 hectares of coffee. On harvest days, hundreds of farmers work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to collect the leaves and take them to the factory for processing.

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A Hom, 53, said: “The tea garden I’m standing on was grown by the French in 1944, when I wasn’t even born. Tea collecting is a job that has been passed down for generations in my family. My mother, father, my children and even my daughter-in-law are all tea farmers. I get paid VND3,000 ($0.13) per kilogram of tea. One person can collect 30 to 70 kg a day. But we can only harvest two or three times a month.”

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There are many different types of tea in Bien Ho, but the most popular ones are Phu Ho, Thai Nguyen and Shan Tuyet. The tea growers are responsible for maintaining and nurturing the tea gardens. The company gives them cultivars, fertilizers and pesticides, collects and processes their harvest, packs and sells it.

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The old tea trees during the French period had a bittersweet and delicate taste that new trees cannot match, farmers say.

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The tea leaves are sorted into four categories: A, B, C and D. The A variety is the most expensive because of its purity and perfection.

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“Harvest time usually occurs during the rainy season from July to October, so wrapping a water resistant sheet around conical hats is something many farmers do,” said Nguyen Thi Huong, who has been a tea grower for 15 years.

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Huong and her husband put the plucked leaves into a sack. Huong said during peak time of the year, she can collect 70 kilograms of tea per day. But to collect it, she has to walk eight kilometers.

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At lunch break and late in the afternoon, the farm truck collects the leaves and takes them to the factory for processing.

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The farmers pull and push to get the heavy sacks of leaves on to the truck.

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Bien Ho tea company officials say that they are buying machines to pluck the leaves because of a serious lack of tea growers. Although the machines can be highly productive, some people say that it is plucking by hand that will deliver quality.

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The tea leaves are put into a grinding machine before drying and packing. Tea from the Bien Ho estate are exported Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other countries.

 
 
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