Smelling freshly-made tea, just seconds out of the dryer
Withering Trough, Photo by Dan Robertson (World Tea Tours)
The withering trough is a wind tunnel with a nylon mesh lining for the tea. The purpose of withering is to reduce the moisture content of the leaf and to make the leaf supple. Yet it's more than that, too. Withering greatly impacts the flavor of the final product. Longer withers yield different flavor profiles, and it is up to the skilled factory workers to know what is right for this flush of tea. One of these experts remains with the withering tea all night, constantly checking the state of the leaf. The trough begins with about three inches of leaf, and it withers down to about one inch.
"The tea is going to call the shots. The human must observe and respond." ~Sanjay, Glenburn Plantation Manager
"Super Twist" rolling machine - love that name!
Rolling used to be done by hand and foot. Today, most tea is rolled by machine. The rolling machine works in a circular manner, to twist and style the tea. During rolling, the leaf's cellular walls are ruptured, thus beginning the oxidation process.
The next step, oxidation, "determines the cup." Oxidation is where it all comes together. I'm over simplifying, but think of it as this season's unique tea + withering + oxidation gets us to the flavor profile in the cup. When the tea has reached its desired state, it's moved into the dryer. (See top pic.) Drying stops the chemical reactions of oxidation. Then off to the sorting rooms to be graded by size.
The sorting room leader
The women in the sorting room cover their faces because it can be dusty work, but it's out of the elements, and is a highly desired job. Six different grades of tea (based on size and wholeness) will be sorted.