How is Tea made? In the central Highlands of Sri Lanka you will see a number of tea factory buildings dotted around the landscape. Some are in town but many are on top of hills in amongst the tea fields.
Ceylon Tea Factory green leaf withering lofts in Sri Lanka
Freshly picked tea leaf tips of the Camellia bush are normally delivered in sacks, straight from the fields, by tractor. The first thing that must happen is the initial drying process to stop the leaves withering and wilting due to oxidization.
Warm air is circulated over the new fresh leaves that have been placed on drying beads as in the picture below. This is timed so that 50% of the moisture contained in the leaf is retained.
Ceylon Tea Factory roller machine in Sri Lanka
The leaves are then gathered up and moved to the rolling machine like the one below. The bruised and bent leaves have had the remaining moisture in the leaf released. This helps in the next stage of the tea processing where they are heated again. As the leaves turn darker this releases chemicals like, caffeine, tannin and anti-oxidants into the leaves. This is called the Fermentation part of tea processing.
To stop this oxidization additional heat is applied to the leaves. The cutting machine is then used before the end product goes into a sifting machine that sorts out the tea into different grades like TGFOP Tippy Golden Flowery Orange pekoe (Tea bud and top two leaves) OP Orange Pekoe (Large or whole tea leaves), BOP Broken Orange Pekoe (small tea leaves) and Dust (for tea bags). They are then sent to the Colombo tea auction houses where the Ceylon tea is purchased by the big global tea houses for export. Some is sold for the local Sri Lankan market .
Ceylon Tea Factory tea leaf separator machine in Sri Lanka