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Tea Making
Imagine you’re standing in a garden on a hot summer afternoon just after the lawn has been mown. Now imagine that intense fresh and “green” smell that you get from recently cut grass. Now picture a scene of soft undulating hills carpeted with green so luscious that you are amazed such a natural colour exists – that is the sight before you wander through the waist height tea bushes leveled to perfection by thousands of nimble fingers.

 As the sun rises over an estate, hundreds of tea pickers congregate in the early morning mist before snacking of through the beautiful green carpet for a day work. Years of experience means the pickers will pluck only the youngest leaves and the buds from the top of the bush with fantastic speed and agility. The plucked leaves are put in a basket on the pickers back and every few hours this will be weighed and taken to the factory positioned in the centre of the rolling green hills.

On arrival at the factory, the freshly plucked leaves are laid out on huge wires troughs for up to 20 hours at a time to allow them to wither a little. Once enough moisture has been lost for them to become bendy to the touch the leaves are ready for the next stage in the manufacture.

From the withering trough the leaves undergo one of two processes depending on the style of leaf that is required at the very end of the manufacture. If the tea is intended to be drunk in a tea bag form, the leaves are passed through a series of oversized mincing machines known as “cut, tear, curl” as this literally what happens to the leaf . In this method, the tea leaves are broken into small pieces, which are much better for use in tea bags as they will ultimately infuse quickly in the tea cup. The second method is known as “orthodox” style as this the traditional way of making tea and would normally be drunk as loose leaf tea. In the past, the “orthodox” method was simply done manually, whereby the leaves were rolled together between the hands- although some of the finest tea in the world is still rolled by hands, the vast majority is now done so by large machines. Both methods rupture the plant cells in order for the next stage to begin. Please note that all Sangam tea are automatic machines packed so that we are able to use CTC or ORTHODOX for a perfect blend in the process.

As the leaf cells have been ruptured in the cutting or rolling process, they immediately begin to oxidize and turn from green to a coppery brown in much the same way as an apple would if you cut it open and left it uncovered. If this process is allowed to continue for an hour or so, the tea leaving the factory will end up being black. However, it’s important to note that whilst black tea undergoes oxidization, green tea must remain the same colour as the original plucked leaf and therefore does not require this process at all. Although many people believe green tea is better for you than black tea, this really is only difference between them. The lack of oxidization in green tea simply means it has a more delicate flavour in comparison to the more “gusty” character of a black tea. Another variation of this is Oolong tea where the leaves are only partially oxidized thus giving a very distinctive character of flavour- this style is often manufactured in china, Taiwan and Japan.

In order to stop the oxidization process the leaves are dried in large ovens for about 20 minutes. As they pass out of the drier, the level of moisture is typically only 2% and it begins to resemble tea, as you would know it.

These dried leaves are ready to drink , but the leaf are all different shapes and sizes and would therefore never be sold in this way, as each leaf would infuse at different speeds in the cup. So, in order to make the leaf more uniform it is sorted into similar sizes using larger sieves. The smaller leaf particles become known as “dust”, the medium sized as “fannings” and largest as “broken”.

Once sorted according to size and shape, the tea leaves will normally be packed into paper or jute sacks and in some cases still into tea chests. The tea is then ready to for sale either in auction or privately on the open market.