Tea journey begins with the plucking of the first two leaves and the bud from the tea bush. Specially in Sri Lanka, every tea leaf is hand-picked. Every tea plucker collect about 15-20kg of tea in each day and also in the meantime they make sure to remove most of the dead buds from the plant to boost its growth.
Once they filled their bags with tea leaves they take it to the station where they can weigh their bags and then transport to the factory.
The next step is to wither, which takes extra weight out of the leaf. This will reduce the water from the leaf. Tea leaves are withering with the help of a fan. There is a large fan that blows air for about 12 hours to reduce the 40% of the water from the leaves.
After 12 hours it’s ready for rolling. Once leaves reduce water now it’s ideal for the rolling process. The upper part of the rolling machine rotates clockwise for about 20 minutes and this will helps leaves to squeeze and release the juice. From this stage, oxidation is begun. (Only on black tea). Green tea and white tea will avoid this step.
Once it’s done in the rolling machine, sifting machine helps to select the tea leaves by size and also this will help to cool the leaves to avoid overly rapid oxidation. When required, this will be repeated until the leaf reaches the desired size.
The process of fermentation, in here tea leaves naturally collect the oxygen by using the water. Once leaves collect oxygen then it changes their colour from green to brown. This will take 1or 2 hours according to the weather.
In this process, the air temperature in the room should not exceed 32 degrees (Celsius).
Once leaves oxidized, then it moves to the drying process where the water content of the leaves reduces up to 4% to 5%. This will stop oxidation. (To stop oxidation this machine operates with a high temperature). Once it dried, tea leaves must cool immediately to avoid over roasting.
The next step is where the black tea gets their name. The sifting machine helps to sort tea by using the sizes of the processed tea leaves. This sorting method consists of the machine where the sieve sizes are deferent, starting with the smallest to the largest.
Mainly black tea can grade as Orange Pekoe (OP), Pekoe, Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP), and Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP) in Sri Lanka. Dust will collect and use for the compost.
Among these Ceylon black teas, we can choose the one we like and have a nice cup of tea by brewing this dry loose tea leaves.