If you like tea, you are probably aware that we make tea from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. However, if you are new to the world of tea, you may find this idea perplexing. How can a single leaf produce such a wide range of flavors? you might also be wondering about the manufacturing process and how it becomes the tea that you consume each morning or anytime of the day. Let us find out the tea manufacturing process in Sri Lanka
People have developed their methods for growing and crafting tea in each field. Tea innovations take place over the centuries by variations in local taste and techniques.
Sri Lanka tea
Ceylon Tea, which was first introduced in 1867, has grown to be Sri Lanka’s most important agricultural export, employing nearly 1 million people directly and indirectly. Tea plantations occupy nearly 4% of the country’s land area, covering nearly 203000 hectares.
In Sri Lanka, tea is produced all year in the region, with an annual production of around 340 million kilograms. The tea-growing regions of Sri Lanka are primarily located in the island’s central highlands and southern inland regions.
Tea grown in these areas can divide into three categories based on elevation: high grown tea from tea plantations above 1200 m, medium grown tea from estates between 600 m and 1200 m, and low grown tea from sea level to 600 m.
The Ceylon tea making process includes the tea-grown areas including various regions. Furthermore, Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Uva, Dimbula, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa, and Ruhuna are the seven major tea-growing regions of Sri Lanka, separated primarily by terroir. Because of the varying elevations, climates, and terrain in each region, each region produces a distinct flavor of Ceylon Tea.
Ceylon Tea’s distinct flavor is influenced by the fact that it is predominantly handpicked. In Sri Lanka, mostly using the 2 leaves and bud process, and nearly 93 percent of Ceylon Tea produced annually is produced using artisanal and orthodox methods, as opposed to the CTC method used around the world.
Ceylon Black Tea accounts for the majority of the country’s tea exports. However, the country also produces Ceylon Green Tea, made from Assamese seedlings. Ceylon White Tea, specifically silver and golden tips, is famous around the world for its exquisite flavor and is one of the most expensive tea varieties available.
The Ceylon tea manufacturing process maintains the highest quality in the global tea market, with ISO 3720 serving as the minimum standard. In terms of pesticide residues, the country has the potential to grow the cleanest tea in the world. In 2012, methyl bromide was removed from tea production in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s tea cultivators and manufacturers maintain the traditional, orthodox method of black tea processing. Besides, black tea processing steps include plucking, withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, etc. Besides, when comparing the types of tea and the main distinction between the tea production process is black tea and green or oolong tea, black tea is significantly more oxidized.
Most experts believe that this produces the finest black tea. Even with the advances in technology over the last thirty or forty years, the traditional approach is still slow and labor-intensive.
However, as Sri Lankan tea planters and traders have always maintained, good tea cannot be rushed or delayed. The time devoted to each of the tea manufacturing processes should judge to obtain quality products. This belongs to the tea maker’s judgment as the correct timing is determined by the moisture content of the plucked leaf, the temperature and humidity conditions during the manufacturing process, and several other factors.
Dust tea/ tea powder
Dust tea is fine-grained black tea with smaller particles. It has a good tea flavor to it. However, as tea drinking became more widespread in the developing world in the last century, dust tea saw a surge in demand. The tea powder production process involves processing the fine-grained black tea particles. This means black tea has a lot more color, taste, and caffeine than green tea.
In essence, its production process is the same way as black tea, with the exception that it is only oxidized for a short period. Oolong tea is typically darker in color and has a stronger flavor than green tea, but it is lighter in color than other black teas and has a more delicate flavor.
Black, green, white, and oolong teas are the four main varieties of tea. Camellia sinensis is the source of all four varieties. Since herbal teas do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant, they do not belong to a true type of tea. Oolong tea accounts for just 2% of total tea consumption worldwide. Oolong tea, despite its lack of popularity, has a significant advantage.
Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds that differ from the withering and oxidation processes as oolong and black teas. Green tea originated in China, but it is now grown and manufactured in some East Asian countries, including Sri Lanka.
Here are some general tea brewing guidelines to remember:
- Use filtered water that is fresh, clean, and cold. The best water is spring water.
- Green teas typically brew in short infusions at 160 to 180 degrees. Do not let your tea get too hot! If the water is too hot, particularly for green tea, the bitterness and astringency of the tea will release more quickly.
- If you do not have an electric kettle with a temperature regulator, let the heat drop before pouring it over the green tea leaves.
- It depends on the tea, but a safe bet is to use about 2 grams of loose-leaf tea per 8 oz. cup of water. Use the steeping instructions on your tea box if it has them.
- To keep all of the heat in the steeping vessel, cover your steeping tea.
- Green tea steeping times range from 30 to 60 seconds for early harvest, delicate teas to 2 to 3 minutes for regular harvest, robust teas.
- The majority of good loose-leaf teas can steep multiple times.
- Keep in mind that green tea has a mild flavor, so you can conceal it with milk and/or sugar, but you will be adding calories in the process.
CTC tea manufacturing process include crush, tear and curl or cut, tear, and curl. This is a method of making black tea. It involves passing the leaves through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of sharp teeth that crush, tear, and curl the tea into tiny, hard pellets. CTC tea, also known as ‘Mamri tea’, is a form of tea made using this process.
Role of the tea maker
The measures that follow ensure that tea is made systematically. However, the tea maker’s expertise is crucial because he is the one who determines the exact timing, level, and degree of each move based on his experience and the type of tea he desires. This is a method that takes time and practice to master, and it is not something that anyone can do on their own. As a result, the position of the tea maker is crucial.
Tea manufacturing process flow chart
Flow chart of tea making includes various steps such as growing, withering, rolling, drying, plucking, packaging, and many more.
Tea is a member of the camellia family of plants. Only tropical and subtropical environments aid the tea bush.
Tea is grown solely to produce leaves. They are collected as often as the tea plant vegetates and grows new shoots with leaves each year. Tea is harvested by hand, although not all of the leaves are picked. They chose only a few top, young, and juicy leaves, as well as a portion of the stem on which they had grown and the so-called bud (or tip) – an unexpanded leaf at the shoot’s end.
“Flush” refers to a few leaves, a portion of the stem, and a cap. The foundation of tea production is flush. “Golden flush” refers to a flush of two or three leaves. Three, four, or even five leaves are used to collect flushes.
Expert tea pickers plucked only the fresh leaf that consists of the bud and the leaves below it guaranteeing a tea with a rich flavor and character.
Aim of plucking
The aim is to select two leaves and a bud of fresh tea, which are achieved through handpicking the tea leaves from the bushes.
The plucked tea leaves are transported to the factory, where they are placed in large withering troughs that use hot air to reduce the tea leaf’s moisture content. The leaf would become flaccid as a result of this. This is known as ‘physical wither.’
During this time, essential chemical changes occur, such as the breakdown of molecules into smaller units, which increases amino acids and flavor compounds, and the partial breakdown of cell walls, which is important for subsequent manufacturing stages. The plucked leaves wither for 6 hours to ensure that this chemical withering occurs properly.
Aim of withering
The aim is to reduce the amount of moisture in the plucked leaf accomplished by fanning the leaves with hot or ambient air in withering troughs.
Rolling has the primary goal of breaking up the leaf cells or compartments and mixing the chemical components of the leaves with the enzymes. To accomplish this, various types of rollers are used. The first roll is known as the “preconditioning roll” because it is usually very gentle.
The preconditioning roll’s key operation has been discovered to be the gentle expression of leaf juice on the surface of the twisted particles. These juices congeal on the surface of the particles, contributing to the tea’s black color. Rolling after that is designed to achieve a complete breakdown of the leaf cells.
Friction generates a lot of heat during the rolling phase, but it’s important to keep the temperature below 35 degrees Celsius because higher temperatures may cause undesirable chemical and enzyme reactions.
Aim of rolling
The aim is to split up the leaf cells and mix up the leaf’s chemical components and its conduct with a roller that uses a rolling motion to apply pressure to the leaf in stages.
- Fermentation/ oxidization
After the leaf has been sifted through the Roll Breaker, it is spread out on an even surface and allowed to oxidize, also known as fermentation. Fermentation is the result of a series of complicated chemical reactions that begin when the leaf is broken in the roller. The disintegration of cells, which allows the enzymes to mix with the other chemical compounds within the cell, causes a variety of reactions, the most important of which is the oxidation of polyphenols. The formation of certain flavor compounds is another reaction that occurs during fermentation.
Aim of fermentation
The aim is to let the macerated leaf oxidize, or ferment, which is where important chemical reactions happen and it is conducted with the help of a Roller, which uses a rolling motion to apply pressure to the leaf in stages.
- Firing and drying
By removing the enzymes, the firing process destroys the majority of the leaf moisture and prevents fermentation. Furthermore, since some of the less desirable low boiling compounds are eliminated during firing, the tea’s flavor is ‘balanced,’ highlighting the existence of more useful higher boiling compounds.
Aim of firing and drying
The aim is to stop the tea leaves from fermenting and undergoing chemical reactions and it is conducted by passing fermented leaves through a dryer that generates a lot of heat.
- Sorting and grading
The fired tea leaves are sorted into particle sizes using sifters that sift them through a variety of meshes. This aids in the classification of the teas into various grades such as Dust, Pekoe, BOP, and so on.
Aim of sorting and grading
The aim is to sort the tea leaves into the grades and it is achieved by sifting the tea leaves through various mesh sizes and sifters.
- Tasting and assessing
The tea maker and professional tasters sample and evaluate the tea. Because they need to ensure that it meets all quality requirements in terms of leaf appearance, fragrance, cup color, and tea character.
Aim of tasting and assessing
The aim is to evaluate the tea’s consistency, flavor, and character. Besides, it is accomplished through sampling the brewed tea, evaluating the brewed tea leaf, and determining the color of the liquor.
- Bulk packing
Each grade of a specific consignment is thoroughly stirred and blended to ensure consistency of appearance, flavor, and quality. The tea is then bulk-packed, either in traditional wooden chests (which were lined with lead in the past) or in more recent aluminum-lined paper sacks.
- Teabags and CTC
Sri Lankan manufacturers responded to the rising global popularity of tea bags by starting production. Tea for bagging is processed using a CTC (‘cut, tear, and curl’) unit, which splits the withered leaf into very small parts. This broken leaf is perfect for tea bags because it infuses quickly and produces a dark, strong brew.
Tea packaging process can be divided into three parts as below.
- Foil stand-up pouches: These pouches have become increasingly common in recent years as a great way to package loose-leaf tea. The bag will stand vertically thanks to the bottom gusset. These pouches come in a variety of colors and sizes and are mostly used for tea packaging. Since the aluminum foil seals stronger with the zip lock, it’s perfect for packing loose tea.
- Foil gusseted bags: These foil pouches, which come in a variety of colors, are very common for tea storage. They come in a variety of styles, including center seal gusseted bags, side seal gusseted bags, and quad seal bags. To offer the bag a stronger foundation, side seal bags have seals that extend to the corners.
- Paper pouches: These food packaging pouches come in a variety of colors and have a square bottom that helps them to stand upright on shelves. The items have a limited shelf life due to the lack of an airtight seal.
How is tea processed?
Tea processing is the process of converting tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant into dried leaves for brewing tea. Tea is divided into different groups based on how it is processed. Tea processing, in its most basic form, entails oxidizing the leaves in various ways and degrees, stopping the oxidation, shaping the tea, and drying it.
The type of tea bush cultivar, the nature of the plucked tea leaves, and the manner and quality of the production processing decide the inherent flavor of the dried tea leaves. A tea can be blended with other teas or flavorings and it may change the flavor of the final product.
How is tea grown and processed?
Sri Lanka’s tea can divide into regions or “districts,” each of which is renowned for producing teas with distinct characteristics. There are a total of seven districts. Regardless of price point or origin estate, each poses a specific combination of climate and landscape that leaves its mark on the tea it produces.
Tea harvesters remove the tea leaves from the bush and arrange them in large wicker baskets. The baskets are then transported to a tea processing plant on the tea plantation until they are completed. Since the leaves begin to oxidize as soon as they are picked, tea processing centers are located on-site. The secret to various forms of true teas is different degrees of oxidation.
How to process tea leaves?
- Withering is the first step in the process of removing excess moisture from tea leaves. The leaves are spread out on a wire mesh to dry for 18 to 20 hours. This is the simplest form, also known as, “natural withering.”
- Tea that has withered can be curled. Tea is constantly pressed and rotated in a roller drum.
- The curled sections of the tea leaves are then fed into a special machine that crushes and sifts them at the same time, cooling and ventilating the tea. Then comes fermentation, which is one of the most crucial stages. Tea is served on tables or grids in a temperature- and oxygen-controlled setting. This process gives the tea its taste and aroma.
- After that, tea is dried to keep its consistency during long-term storage: it is placed in a drying chamber with extremely hot air and then quickly cooled. Dry tea is sorted through vibrating sieves with meshes of various sizes that separate tea leaves of uniform shape and size.
- After that, the tea is packed and sent to tea auctions.
Are tea leaves washed before processing?
Rinsing is not essential for green or black teas, and if you do, a 20-second wash will result in a 20% loss of nutritious compounds.
Since many of these teas are tightly rolled or pressed, oolong and dark teas often need rinsing. A fast rinse will warm and loosen the teas, and when you begin your first infusion, the leaves will reveal their true flavor.
How is tea harvested?
Tea is a part of the camellia family of plants. Tea is harvested by hand, and only a few top young and juicy leaves with a portion of the stem on which they have grown, as well as the so-called bud (or tip), which is an unexpanded leaf at the end of the shoot, are selected.
How is tea harvested or collected?
Most countries now harvest tea with machines, which lowers the quality of the product. Therefore in Sri Lanka people do not use machines to collect tea leaves. Instead of it, tea pluckers in Sri Lanka pick the tea leaves, place them in a large wicker basket, and transport them to the tea processing plant, which is located on the tea plantation itself, once the basket is complete.
How to make green tea?
Green tea processing includes harvesting tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant and quickly heating (by pan frying or steaming) and drying them to avoid oxidation, which would make the green leaves brown and change their taste. Green tea is usually green, yellow, or light brown when brewed.
Depending on the type and variety of green tea you intend to brew, the brewing temperature and steeping time instructions can vary. If the tea kit does not include brewing instructions, ask your tea vendor for advice.
You might have wondered about the manufacturing process of the tea that is usually consumed each day. Here we explained almost all your favorite tea types and their manufacturing process. Therefore, we hope that we answered all your questions regarding the tea manufacturing process in Sri Lanka.