There is a story in tea that is inspiring in its expression. It is a tale that starts with a tiny seedling which evolves through the influence of soil, rainfall, sunshine, temperature and the skill of the tea planter. Eventually it offers the tender green shoots of the now matured Camellia sinensis plant, which are then skillfully harvested by hand. The story spans thousands of hectares and millions of lives in Ceylon’s famous tea country, known as the home of the world’s finest tea. Major brands have abandoned the traditional, centuries-old method of making tea for a new “fast track” process, which sacrifices the character and taste of real tea. Dilmah remains faithful to traditional and authentic tea. That’s why Dilmah tea tastes so different.
TEA (Camellia sinensis) Manufacturing Chart
Variations of the manufacturing process to obtain White, Green and Oolong teas
White teas are entirely handmade. They are rolled by hand and dried in filtered sunlight. In Sri Lanka, white tea is referred to as Silver or Golden Tips. Green tea is not fermented. Fresh leaf, on arrival at the factory, is immediately treated under high temperature by steaming or baking. This deactivates the enzymes that cause fermentation. The oxidation of polyphenols cannot take place and are preserved. This is why green tea has its unique flavour.
In the case of Chinese green tea, the fermentation process is stopped by either exposing the leaves to sunlight or applying warm air to the leaves and then pan-frying the leaves to stop all further processes.
Oolong tea is semi-fermented. In essence, it follows a similar manufacturing process as black tea although the oxidation is for a very short time. Oolong tea is usually much darker and stronger in taste than green tea, but Oolong is lighter in colour than most black teas and usually has a more delicate taste.
The leaf is plucked by highly skilled tea pickers, early in the morning, when the cell content of the leaf is at its mellowest, before the harsh upland sun sets in motion the chemical processes in the leaf. The plucking takes place at that time of the year when temperatures are at their lowest, and early morning frost not an uncommon sight in the plantation.
The leaf is weighed and dispatched to the lofts from where it is sent through a barrel shaped steamer, in which steam at high pressure softens the leaf and coats it with its own cell fluids.
The steamed leaf briefly traverses through the pre-drier arresting any further chemical action in the leaf cells and preparing the leaf for drying in the troughs.
Rolling the withered leaves begins the process of oxidisation by rupturing the leaf cells, allowing the cell sap to mix. In this instance, a specially made “Moon Roller”, smaller than the conventional size was used.
The firing takes place in a specially adapted Tea Drier machine which, at low temperature, removes all surface moisture from the leaf, rendering it suitable for the sifting and grading processes that lie ahead.
Shaping and Styling
Shaping and Styling
Final drying and shaping & styling is done by using the ball tea machine.
Sifting / Grading
The tea is conveyed direct from the dryer to be sifted and graded. Tea particles are separated according to shape and size by being passed through a series of progressively finer meshes. The main grades are Leaf and Broken grades with the former consisting of larger and longer particles, yielding a light infusion, whilst the smaller particles produce darker and stronger infusions.