Assam accounts for over 50 per cent of tea produced in India. There are about 800 large tea gardens and over one lakh small tea growers in the state. Of the total 1174 million kg of tea produced in India in 2014-15, Assam accounted for 585.36 million kg. Nearly 90 per cent of tea produced in Assam is CTC and rest is orthodox tea.
Tea lovers are always curious to know how the garden fresh leaves are processed to make fine black tea for brewing their favourite cup of beverage. Chandrani Sinha takes nezine.com visitors on a pictorial tour inside a factory of Duklingia Tea Estate in Mariani in upper Assam’s Jorhat district to explain step-by-step the meticulous process of making CTC tea :
1. Fine shoots of two tea leaves and a bud is taken as the standard for fine tea counting for over a century in Assam. Freshly plucked tea leaves are carried to the Trouth house which is also known as the storage house, where the leaves are kept for 18 hours for withering. When the moisture content of the leaves reduces by 30 percent it is sent for cutting which is the second step in the process.
2. For cutting, the leaves are pass through a Rotovane where all the leaves are cut.
3. The third and the crucial step is the CTC (Crush Tear Curl). The cut leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of sharp teeth for crushing, tearing and curling the tea into small, hard pellets.
4. Then the tea is sent to Boogie for more round grain. The tea is then sent for fermentation and wet bulb and dry bulb thermometers are used to keep tab on relative humidity.
5. The fifth step is to pass the tea through the dryer in which the inlet temperature remains 120 degree centigrade and exhaust temp 85-90 degree. The tea is ready for tasting after this step.
6. Finally comes tea sample tasting which helps in knowing the quality of the products and labeling the price.
( Chandrani Sinha is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. She travels around the region to gather news. She is also an executive member of Guwahati-based youth organization WAY Foundation.)