How are tea leaves processed?
First excess moisture is removed from tea leaves, this process is called withering. The leaves are laid out on a wire mesh and left to dry for 18-20 hours. This is the easiest method or "natural withering".
Withered tea is ready to be curled. In a roller drum tea is continuously pressed and rotated. The purpose of this operation is to deform cells of tea leaves at molecular level to release catechin compounds and enzymes that later will give to tea its unique flavor.
Curled parts of tea leaves are then fed into a special machine that simultaneously crushes and sifts them – thus tea is cooled and ventilated.
Then comes one of the most important steps called fermentation. Tea is laid out on tables or grids in the area with controlled temperature and oxygen supply. This process forms flavor and aroma of tea.
Afterwards tea is dried so that it can preserve its quality during long-term storage: tea is put into a drying chamber with very hot air and then is rapidly cooled.
Dry tea is sorted on vibrating sieves that have meshes of different diameters that separate tea leaves of uniform shape and size.
Then tea is packed and sent to tea auctions. There are around ten major tea auctions in the world. The largest are in Cochin and Calcutta (India), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Jakarta (Indonesia), Mombasa (Kenya), Chittagong (Bangladesh).