The Old Fashioned Way
A brief explanation of tea manufacturing processes in Ceylon tea factories in the early 1900s
1) The tea leaves are “plucked” from the plant by hand, to ensure that the correct leaves are chosen.
2) Withering, the process where the leaves are softened with heat to enable them to be rolled. The tea leaf in its green state contains about 75 per cent water, even in dry weather.
3) Rolling is to break up the cellular formation of the leaf and liberate the juices so they can be dissolved in water. This is generally done by machine.
4) After rolling, the tea leaf is left to ferment to deepen the colour of the liquor and soften its natural astringency. This allows for the maximum development of flavour.
5) In the firing room, the leaf is placed in machines where it is subjected to a stream of hot air. This stops the fermentation process.
6) The sifting or grading of tea is usually done by machine. The machine is generally a frame containing a variety of sieves which collect the different sized leaves and pieces.
在到达发酵室时，叶子以约3-5厘米厚的薄层蔓延到特殊表面上。在这里，让它成熟和发酵，直到叶子变成明亮的铜色调 – 与其初始绿色完全不同。
Fermentation and Fire
After rolling, the tea leaf is fermented to deepen the colour of the liquor and soften its natural astringency. This allows for the maximum development of flavour.
Fermentation commences immediately when the juices are exposed to the air during rolling, and continues until the leaf is dried or fixed.
Sometimes, no further development is require after rolling so the tea is fired immediately.
If more processing is required, the leaf is taken to fermenting rooms until it has sufficiently fermented.
On arrival to the fermenting room, the leaf is spread in thin layers, about 3-5cm thick, onto special surfaces.
Here it is left to allow it to mature and ferment until the leaf turns a bright coppery hue – quite different from its initial green colour.
When it is deemed ready, it is removed and set to the firing room for the drying process.
In the firing room, the leaf is placed in machines where it is subjected to a stream of hot air.
This stops the fermentation process and evaporates the moisture in the leaf, leaving a dry product.
The leaf is by this stage black in colour but it is still uneven in size and must now be sifted and graded.
Plucking Good Leaves
The tea leaves are “plucked” from the plant by hand, to ensure that the correct leaves are chosen.
Pluckers, as they are known, carry baskets attached to their shoulders into which they throw the leaves they have gathered.
At regular hours, generally three times a day, the bags are weighed and emptied, to measure how much the plucker should be paid.
The leaf is then dispatched to the factory where it moves to the next processing phase.
Leaves can deteriorate if they are left in the bags for a lengthy amount of time so they are not kept in these confines for too long.
Roll It Up
The object of rolling tea is to rupture the leaf cells and liberate the juices.
A tea rolling machine (like the one pictured above) is used to do this.
The freed juices are thoroughly distributed over the surface of the leaf by the churning action of rolling.
When the moisture is later removed by firing, the dry residue is left is a position where it is more readily dissolved when the leaf is later steeped in boiling water.
Two important changes must be allowed to take place in the substances of the leaf before it is fired.
1) Fermentation and oxidisation of the tannin.
2) The development of the essential oil responsible for the flavour.
The withering tats must have a smooth, even surface, free from corrugations and pockets.
Wooden tats, if not warped, make an excellent surface. Although with wet leaf the process is slightly slower than it is when using hessian tats.
Hessian tats must be stretched tight and their great fault is that in dry wether they will sag down and in wet weather they shrink. They need constant adjustment.
Wired tats (pictured above) are stretched hessian with wire supporting them.
They present a perfect spreading surface when properly trimmed and adjusted.
This method is more expensive but the life of the hessian is more than tripled.
History in a Cup
Tea is just about 5,000 years old. It was said to be discovered in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor called Shen-Nung. He was known as the Divine Healer.
According to legend, some tea leaves accidentally blew into the Emperor’s pot of boiling water and gifted him the first cup.
It wasn’t until the 1600s when tea became popular in Europe and the Americas. Culturally, tea was very influential in the establishment of the United States of America.
In 1767, the British Government put a tax on the tea used by American colonists. Protesting what they called “taxation without representation,” the colonists stopped buying the tea and refused tea ships to be unloaded on American soil.
One December night in 1723, men who were dressed as Native Americans boarded British tea-carrying ships in Boston Harbor and threw more than 300 chests of tea into the sea.
This now famous “Boston Tea Party”, which was in protest of the British tea tax, was said to be one of the acts leading to the American Revolutionary War.