From Garden to Tea Cup

From Graden to Cup

Tea goes through a number of painstaking processes to become the drink you enjoy.

1. It all begins in the garden where seedlings or cuttings obtained from carefully selected mother bushes are raised through vegetative propagation.

2. The tea plants are grown in a special nursery until they are transplanted to the field, where they are planted 60 cm to 120 cm apart following the natural contours of the landscape. The young tea is nurtured with tender care for 3-4 years when it becomes ready for picking.

3. The tender shoots are plucked skillfully into a bamboo basket. Only the two topmost leaves and a bud are plucked as they store the flavour and character of the tea. The leaves are then selected, weighed and put into aerated bags made of polypropylene, sisal or jute ready for transportation.

4. Within a few hours of plucking, the leaves are transported to the factory in specially designed trucks, which have racks on which tea sacks are neatly arranged. Great care is taken to ensure the leaves are not bruised and remain cool and fresh as they make their way to the factory.

5. At the factory gate, the fresh tea leaves are subjected to a stringent quality check to ascertain that the set quality parameters have been met.

6. The leaf is then thinly spread onto a withering trough, which is a perforated bed with a plenum chamber through which fresh air is blown into the leaves for 14 to 18 hours in order to wither them to about 70% moisture content. This withering process results in concentrating the tea juices within the leaf although they remain physically separated by the cell walls. Withering also results in the leaves becoming limp or flaccid.

7. Cell rupturing or maceration, as the cutting process is known, follows. This is the heart of the manufacture process in which the cell walls are broken by passing the withered leaf through a series of cylindrical high speed serrated rollers with thousands of small sharp "teeth" designed to cut, tear and curl (CTC) the leaf thereby transforming it into a form referred to in ancient tea language as dhool.

8. Next, the dhool is oxidized under carefully timed and controlled temperature and humidity conditions. This is commonly referred to as the fermentation process. At this stage the green dhool changes to a coppery brown colour, while different aromas are released as a result of the complex intrinsic chemical reactions taking place along the modern state-of-the art double-stream continuous fermenting unit in place. This stage is responsible to a very large extent for developing the black tea liquoring properties such as body, briskness, colour and strength of the tea.

9. The fully oxidized tea then undergoes a drying process in a fluid bed dryer (FBD) after about two hours of fermentation where it is subjected to temperatures of 140-150 0C to dry it to about 3% moisture content. Here the dhool loses its coppery brown colour to produce the black tea.

10. Finally, the black tea is sorted into brokens, pekoes, fannings or dusts grades according to particle size and fibre content.

11. The tea is immediately weighed and stored in hermetically sealed bulk storage bins that prevent ingress of moisture or contamination. Packing into airtight multi-lined sacks takes place under hygienic conditions that ensure quality is preserved.

12. Sales and distribution to the various markets follow, with much of the tea being sold through the Mombasa auction while the value added teas are packed in delightful packs for distribution to retail outlets around the country and abroad.

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