The Struggle behind every Cup Of Tea

Have you ever paused to think about the journey that your cup of tea undertakes before it reaches your hands? The process of tea manufacturing is a complex and intricate art that involves numerous steps and an immense amount of hard work. From the cultivation of tea leaves to the final packaging, there is an entire world of labour and dedication hidden behind every sip we take.

Tea-leves-plucking

Plucking

The plucking process involves harvesting the green leaf at regular intervals, usually between 5 to 8 days, from each field. Skilled women are typically the ones responsible for plucking the soft two leaves and buds due to their nimble hands. Once the leaf is plucked, the manufacturing process begins immediately to maintain its freshness. The leaves are transported from the fields to the factories three to four times daily to ensure their quality is preserved.

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Withering

Upon arrival at the factory, the leaf is promptly weighed and placed on troughs. The withering process involves circulating conditioned air amongst the leaves. Its purpose is firstly to eliminate any surface moisture, and subsequently to intensify and chemically break down the tea juices. This transformation typically takes 10 to 14 hours, resulting in the leaf becoming soft and elastic, which is ideal for the subsequent manufacturing stage.

Rolling

The rolling process involves twisting the leaf and causing the cell walls to rupture, which causes the tea juices to rise to the leaf’s surface. Traditional rolling machines consist of a deep jacket, a pressure cap, and a table with battens and a central cone to twist the leaf. More modern machines, such as the “Rotorvane,” can also achieve the same twisting effect. This process typically lasts around 20 to 30 minutes.
To separate the twisted leaf from the untwisted portion and prevent excessive heat buildup, the rolled leaf is passed through a roll breaker. This machine uses meshes to distinguish the rolled leaf from the unrolled portion. The unrolled leaf is returned to the rollers for further rolling, while the rolled leaf is then subjected to fermentation.

Fermentation

Fermentation plays a vital role in the production of black tea. It involves the oxidation of enzymes in the tea juices, enhancing the flavour, strength, and colour of the resulting liquors and infusions. Typically, fermentation is conducted on glass or tiled tables.
During fermentation, the colour of the leaf undergoes a transition from greenish to coppery brown. The degree of fermentation is evaluated based on the observed colour and aroma.

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Drying

The main purpose of drying is to remove moisture and halt the fermentation process. The fermented leaf typically contains around 45% to 50% moisture. The drying process involves passing the leaf through driers equipped with perforated trays. These trays allow for the conveyance of the fermented leaf while facilitating the extraction of moisture.

Grading (Sifting)

After the fired teas have been cooled, they undergo a grading or sifting process based on their size and shape, as required by the trade. Each grade of tea is assigned a specific nomenclature. Once the grading is complete, the teas are stored in airtight containers or boxes. The sifting is performed using a series of grading and cleaning machines that feature multiple trays with different mesh sizes. These machines are designed to separate the tea particles into various grades and remove any stalks or fibres present.

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Packing / Despatching

Teas have a high affinity for moisture and can quickly absorb it. Once enough quantities of teas have been gathered, they are either packed in plywood tea chests or multi-walled aluminium craft paper-lined paper sacks for dispatch to auctions. Alternatively, they can be packed into various forms of tea packs for direct export or distribution. This packaging is essential to preserve the quality and freshness of the teas during transportation.

Conclusion

The struggle behind every tea is a testament to the immense care taken to preserve the authenticity and quality of the leaves. It is a reminder of the human touch and the dedication required to create this beloved beverage that brings comfort, warmth, and pleasure to millions of people around the world.

So, the next time you hold a cup of tea in your hands, remember the journey it undertook and the countless hours of labour invested. Appreciate the dedication of those who brought it to you and savour every sip with the knowledge that it is not just a beverage, but a culmination of passion, perseverance, and the true embodiment of the struggle behind every tea.

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