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Harvesting Tea Leaves in the Central Highlands of Vietnam

May 1, 2023
3 Min Read
Written by 
A woman plucks tea on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam

For the majority of Vietnam’s history, tea was merely a garden crop. The origin and development of the current tea industry in Vietnam was driven by French colonialists at the end of the Nineteenth century.

This is no different for the tea plantations we currently see in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, thanks to its altitude and cool climate the ideal location for tea growing. One of the many tea farms in this area is Cau Dat, around 20km from tourist hotspot Da Lat. In 1927 the French colonialists established a tea factory and planted 600 acres of tea plants on the hills surrounding the factory. The factory is still in business till this day, though it also opens its doors for tourist.

A group of women pluck tea on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam

The roots of Vietnam’s tea history lay in these hills. In the crops and buildings, but even more so in the workers that pluck the tea leaves delicately with hand. Plucking tea leaves is a profession that gets passed down for generations. Usually multiple people in a family are tea farmers.

The farmers, mainly women, wade through the rows of tea bushes to collect the tea leaves in bags attached to their waist. Their attire consist of thick raincoats and gloves to provide protection against the sharp branches. As harvest time usually occurs during monsoon, farmers opt to wrap their conical hats with water resistant sheets. 

A woman plucks tea on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam

During harvest, tea farmers work long days to collect leaves. The leaves are collected in bags that get picked up by supervisors working for the plantation. The plantation collects the leaves twice a day, at lunch break and in the afternoon. The leaves get collected and brought to the factory for further processing and packing. The supervisors are responsible for the collection and quality control of the leaves. A tea farmer gets paid around 4,000 VND (0.14 USD) per kilogram. One person might collect up to 70kg a day.

A woman plucks tea on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam
A woman plucks tea on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam

The tea farmers are responsible for the maintenance and cultivation of the crops. The growth and development of the crops is of great influence for the method of plucking. The pluckers in Cau Dat use a fascinating tool to speed up their plucking process; a razor blade strapped to the index finger. In order to make use of this tool the branches must be firm and thick and the plucking speed must be quick to avoid damage. 

Women have lunch on a tea plantation in Cau Dat, Vietnam

Due to the scarcity of tea farmers, plantations are more and more often forced to use machines to pluck the tea leaves. Some people may argue that plucking by hand is what delivers the quality. 


A traveller who enjoys photographing colorful local markets and mountain kids.

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