Within all tea growing regions, merely a top leaf bud and the next two leaves, the youngest ones of a spout are picked. More mature leaves have an undesirable impact on the quality of the processed teas. In the mountains, therefore cooler regions, tea naturally matures slower. This lets the especially high-quality, aromatic characteristics to envelop. The actual cropping period also has a tremendous influence on the quality of the tea. The plucking necessitates a lot of proper care along with skills set and is commonly performed by women. The standard plucking volumes are roughly 35 to 53 lb of green leaves a day which produces 9 to 13 lb of processed tea. A few times per day, the green leaves are delivered to the manufacturing facility in the tea garden. The green leaves are still absolutely neutral in fragrance and initially will be handled in the tea production line, going through numerous production procedures, in order to generate a savory final product.
Tea gets processed on the plantations in the country of origin and after that, exports in its finished form. The most essential steps of the procedure with respect to orthodox tea production (which may be utilized for the manufacturing of any kind of tea desired in contrast to the subsequently described CTC production) are: withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting into leaf and broken grades of different sizes.
When the freshly picked leaves arrive at the manufacturing facility, they are weighed and the quantity is documented. After that, the withering process is initiated where the moisture content of the leaves is diminished by approximately 30% in order to make them tender and workable for the following step - rolling. The withering takes place in a specific withering troughs 80 to 100 feet long that are usually stringed with a wire grid and ventilated by big fans. The leaves are distributed out on the grid. The air flow that moves through the ventilators can easily be heated up when needed due to greater moisture content of the leaves. The withering process requires 12 to 18 hours.
Hereafter, the withered green leaves are thrown in the rolling equipment, which commonly consists of a pair of big, hefty metal plates that are spinning in opposition direction to each other and are bruising the leaves, opening their cells, providing the cellular juice into contact with the oxygen in the air flow. This process begins the fermentation step as well as the occurrence of the essential oils that then establish the aroma and the flavor of the teas. Now rolled tea will begin fermentation in a dedicated fermentation room. A lot of tea production facilities use so-called "rotor vane" equipment, a sort of shredder that further processes the leaves. The leaves move throughout a slowly spinning screw conveyor via a tube where presence of oxygen speeds up the fermentation process.
The fermentation is an oxidation and tanning process of the cellular essential oils, which are produced during the rolling process. Intended for the fermentation, the leaves are spread out on workstations in 4 inches layers. Advanced tea producing factories humidify the area where the fermentation takes place. During the fermentation, which usually takes 2 - 3 hours, tea leaves alter their color that progressively turns into a copper-red. This color is observed in infused tea leaves. The "tea maker" is required constantly measure the degree of oxidation, especially with regard to the aroma of the wet leaves. The superior quality of the end product depends on the accurate fermentation.
The fermentation is completed when the ideal grade of fermented product is achieved. In other words as soon as tea develops its typical fragrance and the copper-red color, the drying process begins. So-called tiered dryers are used. They are powered with wood or oil. Tea moves through the dryer on a conveyor belt. The beginning temperature is about 190 degrees that helps to bind the cellular oils solidly to the leaves. Towards the end of the 20 minutes long drying procedure, the temperature decreases to 100 degrees and the humidity content to approximately 6%. Later on, whenever tea is brewed, the essential oils that stuck to the dried leaves are dissolved in the hot water and produce the aromatic and stimulating beverage.
The black tea produced via the drying process or the so-called raw tea, now will be sieved by a variety of shaking mechanical sieves with different sieve sizes, in which the typical leaf grades are separated from each other.
Based on the sieve sizes, sorting typically yields the following grades: leaf tea, broken tea, fannings and dust. Typically, the smaller the leaf, the stronger the infusion.
Tea is a natural product, which is created by reducing its moisture content. It should be stored in a cool and dry area. Tea maintains its original flavor when kept in a tightly sealed container, away from powerfully smelling food items such as spices.
Green Tea Production
Green Tea differs from black tea merely by not being fermented, other words not altered by oxidation. The manufacturing process is generally the same until the end of the withering process. Throughout green tea production, tea tannins and enzymes are destroyed by steaming or roasting after the withering. Before the rolling starts, tea is "steamed” or "pan-fried" and then rolled and dried. This guarantees that the leaves will not change their color, they will remain olive-green. The color of infusion varies depending on the kind of green tea, cultivation region, and plucking period and can be anything from light yellow to dark green.
This term means: crushing, tearing, curling.
This technique starts by withering the green leaves, then rolling them once before they are torn in the CTC machines in between thrones rollers. This method makes sure that the cells are broken up more extensively and rapidly compared to the orthodox tea production. CTC tea has the most intensive color and greater yielding. The stems and leaf ribs are removed, only the cut "flesh" of the green leaves is processed further. After this process, tea is delivered into the fermentation area. Depending on the preferred leaf size, this procedure is repeated numerous times.
During the CTC-Production, primarily fanning is made, no leaf teas and only very few broken teas. Therefore, CTC teas are very appropriate for tea bags. In the present day, 50% of tea produced in India and almost 100% in Kenya by using the CTC technique. In Darjeeling, however, only orthodox tea is manufactured.
The most essential grades are:
BP = Broken Pekoe
PF= Pekoe Fannings
PD = Pekoe Dust