Plucking fresh leaves
The process of tea manufacture begins with the tea leaves. Staying true to the traditional method fresh tea leaves are plucked by hand. Although this is labour intensive and more expensive, it is essential for quality tea. Only the bud and the two tender leaves are harvested. This is known as fine plucking. The fields are plucked regularly, usually every five to seven days.
This is the most critical process in Black Tea manufacture. Withering makes the tea leaf pliable which prevents it from breaking during 'rolling'. It also activates certain elements in the leaf essential for produce quality tea. Withering reduces the moisture content of the leaves. Leaves are spread out on withering troughs and a flow of cool air helps the process.
Rolling is an art perfected over centuries. It brings out the flavour of the tea and gives the traditionally manufactured tea it signature curved appearance. Rolling also starts the process of oxidisation, whilst coating the tea leaf with tea juices, and reduces the size of the leaf. Because it is important that a certain room temperature is maintained, rolling is usually done very early in the morning.
Fermentation begins as soon as the rolling process is complete. The rolled leaves, by now a coppery brown colour are fermented to make the tea liquor palatable. The fermenting leaves are called dhools. The fermentation period varies depending on the quality, colour and strength required. Roll breaking is also part of this process. It sifted out twisted leaves and cools the leaf.
Sifting and Grading
The tea proceeds straight from the dryer to be sifted and graded. Tea particles are separated by their shape and size by sifting through a series of progressively finer meshes. The main grades are Leaf and Broken grades with the former being made of larger and longer particles which yield a lighter liquor and the latter, smaller particles which produce darker and stronger liquors.