Orthodox Tea Manufacturing
1. Tea Plucking
- Only the young bud with 2-3 leaves are hand picked
- Leaves are plucked every 6-15 days, depending on the season/climatic conditions
- Each Kg will carry about 20,000 shoots
- Need 4kgs of fresh leaves to make 1kg of made tea
- Machine plucking is not done in Sri Lanka
- The object is to evaporate from the moisture slowly over a period of 18 to 24 hours dependent on temperature and humidity.
- Approximately 65% of the water content in the green leaf is removed at this stage
- It becomes pliable and will withstand the subsequent process of ‘rolling’, without breaking up into flakes.
3. Tea Rolling
- The purpose of rolling is to achieve the final curved appearance and to break the leaf cell walls so as to release essential oils to start a chemical reaction of fermentation
- In this process the green colour of the leaf is replaced by a brown coppery coloured texture.
- When the leaf cells are ruptured, the enzymes in the leaf come in to contact with oxygen in the air which initiates chemical reactions that are necessary for the production of black tea.
4. Tea Fermentation
- The finer particles collected after roll breaking, are fermented to bring about the changes necessary to make a tea liquor palatable.
- The leaf is thinly spread in a cool, well ventilated room to slowly oxidize (ferment).
- Flavanols combine with oxygen in the air develops the flavour as well as changes the colour from green to brown over a period ranging from 2 to 4 hours
- This is a fine art of the factory tea maker.
5. Tea drying
- The Tea Dryer is a chamber which exposes the fermented leaf to hot dry air at regulated, varying temperature within its parts, for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes.
- Once optimum fermentation has been achieved, the rolled leaf is taken for firing (or drying) to arrest further fermentation by deactivating the enzymes, and to remove almost all of the remaining moisture of the leaf.
6. Tea Sorting/Grading
- The separation of tea particles into ‘grades’ (different shapes and sizes) is required so as to conform to trade standards.
- Dried tea is sorted into different grades by passing them over a series of vibrating screens of different mesh sizes.
- The various grades of tea only denote a certain size and appearance of leaf; it has no reference to quality. Broken grades normally give darker liquor and a stronger tea. Leaf grades on the hand, are lighter coloured and less strong. The quality of tea is unrelated to a grade.