In Sri Lanka (Ceylon) the best tea gardens
are found in the higher altitude from 3,000 to 8,000 feet on the slopes of the high
plateaus, influenced by the seasonal monsoons. The finest tea is plucked from late
June to end August in the Eastern slopes and from February to mid March in the Western
Tea - top most two young tender leaves and
bud, is plucked by hand to preserve flavour & quality. The pick of every season with
flowery delicate liquor comes from Dimbulla, Nuwara Eliya and Uva, and the teas of
stronger flavour and colour from the lower plains of Ratnapura, Galle & Matara.
After freshly picked green tea leaves are
dried (withered) inside large troughs to take away the moisture tea leaves are graded.
The leaves are then gently rolled into curls without breaking and are spread in
thin layers on wide screens stacked 8" apart to allow a current of warm air to
circulate for approximately 24 hours. Our modern factories accomplish this task in
vats reducing withering time to six hours.
To manufacture black tea, which is commonly
used in tea bags and account for 90% of the world's tea production, the withered tea
leaves are cut, torn or curled and machinery is used for the process of breaking the tea
leaves into smaller particles, wherein exposed to oxidization the green tea leaves turn to
brown. Then sorting is done according to size and condition of broken leaves grading
the black tea into various categories.
Fermentation, the operation that decides
black tea its colour and the subtlety of its flavour, which totally depends on the skill
and an adept sense of timing comprising a dryer and conveyor belt exposing tea to
temperatures of atleast 175F for around 20 minutes produces the most invigorating brew
with therapetic properties.