Harvesting and Picking Tea
The first step in the tea manufacturing process is to pick the leaves of the tea from the plant. This is often done in some countries by a mechanical harvester. Some countries that grow tea pick the leaves by hand. Women are considered better pickers and more coordinated than men for this job. They try to pick the less coarse leaves, which are weighed, then sent to the factory for processing. Most hand pickers strive to pick only two leaves and a bud. In most Asian countries the tea picking starts in the spring and continues from May through August. In Africa tea is picked throughout the year. All types of tea are produced from the same plant. The differences come from the ways the tea is processed.
Methods Used to Process Tea
One of the methods used in processing tea is withering the tea leaves. The leaves are spread out on long, enclosed troughs, and air is blown through them. This causes them to dry and lose water. The process takes 16 to 20 hours, and then the leaves are sifted to remove impurities. Tea leaves are then rolled in a machine called a rotovene. The leaves are twisted and broken in this machine to release juice. Tea oxidation or fermentation is the next step, and takes 90 minutes or more. The tea leaves are in trolleys or large trays where humidified air is blown onto them to produce oxidation. Rollers treated with the compound polyphenol break the leaves down when oxygen hits them. The leaves turn from green to red, then brown to black in the process. This is an important step which develops the flavor and composition of black tea.
Drying, Grading, and Packing Tea
The leaves are dried in machines. They are exposed to hot air from dryers and then sent to different parts of the factory to be sorted. Green tea is dried on bamboo trays in the sun, then roasted in hot pans to further dry the leaves. They are rolled and dried again in large, hot pans. Qualified tasters then taste the tea and examine it for color, flavor, and texture. A grading machine is round in shape. It sorts out grades of tea by shaking and vibrating different levels of screens. After the tea is sorted it is sent on the conveyor belts to storage bins for packing.
- Tea Industry Analysis
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