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Tea Manufacture

How Tea is Manufactured

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All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinsesis, but the different types: black tea, green tea, and white tea, are the result of different manufacturing processes. Below is a very brief overview of the main steps in the manufacture of each different type of tea.

Black Tea

Green Tea

White Tea

Plucking

The first stage in the production of tea is to pluck the fresh leaves of the tea bush. In particular, pluckers try to only take two leaves and a bud as shown below as this has the most flavour.

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Plucking

Naturally, the first stage of production is plucking. Pluckers select only two-leaves-and-a-bud. For both black tea and green tea, the plucked leaf is the same.

Tea_Leaves

Plucking

The first and only stage of production that requires human intervention. Only the very freshest tea leaf buds of the finest tea plants in the highest tea gardens are plucked.

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Whithering

Once plucked, the tea is laid onto withering beds. Here, fans blow hot air over the tea in order to reduce the moisture content in the leaves from about 90% to roughly 40-50%.

withering tea

Withering

As with the manufacture of black tea, in the production of green tea the leaves are first dried to reduce their moisture content down to 40-50%. This is done so that the tea is easier to roll in the next step.

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Sun-Drying

Once plucked, the leaf is simply laid out to dry in the sun. The tea naturally transforms into the fine silver coloured end product.

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Rolling

Once the moisture in the leaf is sufficiently low, the tea leaves are rolled. Rolling is done by placing the leaf in between two large flat metal sheets and then gradually rotating the in opposite directions. This results in rupturing the skin of the leaf and releasing its juices.

tea roller

Pan-Frying/Steaming

In this stage, the leaves are are hand-tossed in an electrically heated “wok”. This is one of the most important production steps, it stops the enzymatic action of polyphenols which in turn allows the tea maker to control the quality characteristics of the tea.

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Fermentation

Perhaps the most important stage in the production of black tea. Once the tea is rolled, it is placed on trays which are placed into ovens at about 60c. Here, the chlorophyll in the leaf breaks down into various compounds which give black tea its characteristic flavour. However, if not done properly, this is where most defects occur in tea production.

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Shaping

In this stage, the tea is “shaped” to various different grades ranging from gun-powder balls to whole-leaf sencha. This is done so that when brewing, it does not infuse too rapidly and therefore over-brew.

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Drying

The final step, in this second drying stage, the moisture in the leaf is further reduced till it reaches approximately 6%. Following this, the leaf is packed into bulk bags for transport.

Drying & Packaging

The final stage of production. The tea is further dried until the moisture content is less than 8%. Following this, the tea is bulk packed and ready for transport.

Tea Manufacture