Tea Processing       

The botanical name of the tea plant is "Camellia Sinensis". It is hardy, multi stemmed; slow growing evergreen shrub which if allowed to, can grow up to 2.5 mtrs in height. It takes four to six years to mature and is known to have an economic life of well over 100 years. A set of agricultural practices have been developed to sustain the growth of shoots, which maintaining bush heights suitable for manual plucking. Only the young tender shoots are skillfully hand plucked as soon they are ready. Each tea bush in the entire estate is plucked every 6-8 days depending on the season. Plucking begins in March and closes by early December; the cold winter months of December to February are a period of dormancy. Each kilogram of fine tea consists of more than 20,000 individually hand plucked shoots. This gives an idea of the extent of human effort involved in its production.  

Once the leaf reaches the factory, it is "withered". The object is to evaporate from the moisture slowly over a period of 14 to 16 hours. The leaf becomes limp so as to withstand twisting and rolling under pressure without crumbling. Liquor characteristics also begin to develop following physical and chemical changes within the leaf structure. The green leaf are segregated according to type and spread evenly on wire mesh screens fitted ove specially designed "trough" which resemble very long wooden boxes. Each such trough is a air chamber which enables  fresh dry air to be passed in a regulated manner through the green leaves till the desired "wither" is achieved. Approximately 65% of the water content in the green leaf is removed at this stage.  

The withered leaf is then removed from the trough and loaded into rolling/ CTC Cutting machines.  Two basic methods of manufacture are followed in India - CTC & Orthodox. CTC is produced by the cutting method employed to produce granular teas with thick strong liquor. This form of manufacture is a relatively recent development over 50 years. Orthodox teas follow the traditional form of manufacturing and by the rolling process, produce twisty leafy tea with lighter and more flowery liquor. 

Orthodox tea is made during rolling by subjecting the withered leaf to a rolling movement under pressure, twisting the leaf, rupturing the cells and releasing the natural juices, promoting oxidation and accelerating the pigmentation. Rolling pressures and sequences are very meticulously supervised to ensure that the optimum style is imparted, without the detrimental effect of overheating. in the CTC process the withered leaf is cut by three sets of rollers in different stages to get small granules.   

Next, the leaf is thinly spread in a cool, well ventilated room to slowly oxidise(ferment). This stage, in which the flavones combine with oxygen in the air develops the flavour as well as changes the colour from green to brown over a period ranging from 2 to 4 hours, mainly depending on ambient temperature and leaf pedigree. The experienced tea maker judges the extent of quality development from the fragrance progressively expressed by the leaf at regular intervals. this sensory judgment is critical to the quality of the infused liquor. For the visitor, the rich aroma emanating from the rolling and fermenting room is heady, almost intoxicating and definitely unforgettable.  

Once optimum fermentation has been achieved, the rolled leaf is taken for firing (or drying) to arrest further fermentation by deactivating the enzymes, and to remove almost all of the remaining moisture of the leaf. The Tea Dryer is a chamber which exposes the fermented leaf to hot dry air at regulated, varying temperature within its parts, for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes. A good fire reduces moisture content in the final product to about 2%, resulting in crisp dry tea which is then graded through vibrating meshes according to size. These grades are finally invoiced and packed.  

After final grading has been completed, nomenclatures are assigned according to the size of the grade as follows.