From green leaf to black tea …..
We were very lucky to have an opportunity to be shown around another tea factory, where we were able to observe the fascinating process of turning soft green freshly picked leaves into beautiful black tea using the cut, tear, curl (CTC) method. This traditional method of making tea was invented in the 1930s and is still basically the same today.
It was amazing to see the lush, tender, just plucked leaves sitting in their canvas bags waiting to be picked up from the little field stations. We followed the lorry transporting the leaves to the factory where we watched the whole process from start to finish.
The full bags were hooked onto a conveyor belt and then tipped out onto huge trays over hot air blowers to start the withering process. The withering shed was hot and dry which is designed to take out the moisture content from the leaves, which can be as high as 80% of leaf weight. The leaves are tossed by hand to bruise them and break down their structure.
The warm air starts the oxidzation process as the broken leaves are sent along a series of conveyor belts with giant blades that gradually them into smaller and smaller pieces. As the leaves move along they become fine leaf particles and turn progressively darker as they fully oxidize.
Then the leaves are finally sent through a series of ovens where the firing temperature is tightly controlled to ensure the tea is fired at the exact point without burning. The tea gets to the end of the line and is ready for grading and tasting. The whole process from start to finish can take as little as one hour!