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The Production Process of Ceylon Tea

Updated on October 24, 2018

Tea - the card of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). On the island is produced 10% of the world tea. On plantations work more than half a million people. Almost all tea produced on the island is exported. It appears, that to enter the factory to make a report, is not easy. At all the factories, where I came without an agreement, did not allow shooting.

The island has a few "tourist factory", which anyone can hit, but showing off was not interesting to me, I needed a real tea factory. With the deep expertise of our chief, a factory is found, and even a little shoot, until the authorities of a friend manager came.

Raw materials for the manufacturing of tea are leaves of a tea bush which is grown in large quantities on special plantations. For the growth of tea, the plant requires a warm climate with plenty of moisture, that does not stagnate, however, at the roots. In Sri Lanka, the collection is carried out up to four times a year. The most prized teas are the first two harvests.

"Tea plantations of Ceylon are as monuments to the courage and bravery of the planters as a statue of a lion on a field near Waterloo." Arthur Conan Doyle

In the central highlands of Sri Lanka's are located the plantations of famous Ceylon tea. For the first time, tea was brought to the island in 1824 from China, and in 1839 from Assam (India). It turned out that the Chinese variety is better adapted to the highlands, and the Indian is well adapted to the plains of the island.

In 1867, a Scottish planter, James Taylor, first took up tea cultivation for commercial purposes, seedlings planted 80 hectares in area Nuwara Elia. Now Sri Lanka is the third largest producer in the world of tea and the first exporter. For its unique characteristics, Ceylon tea is the best tea in the world.

Tea Plantations are on Various Altitudes

Due to climatic conditions, local tea has a delicate flavor and aroma. Tea is cultivated all year round and is grown at three levels: up to 600 m above sea level in areas Balangody, Ratnapura, Kelaniya river valley and Halle, and from 600 to 1200 m and above 1200 m in the areas around Nuwara Elia.

The best quality is considered to tea with the highland plantations south of the island (altitude 2000 m above sea level and above). Teas from other plantations - average quality.

The tea leaves are collected and sorted by hand: for the highest grade teas (and cost) used unblown buds and youngest leaves, only the first and second flush (first-second group of leaves on the sprout, starting from the end); more "rough" teas are made from mature leaves. Collectors' work is rather heavy and monotonous: the ratio of the mass of the finished black tea and raw leaf - about ¼, that is, to produce kilogram of tea is required to collect four kilograms of leaves.

Tea leafs are hand-picked

Production standard for collectors is 30-35 kg of leaf per day, that it is necessary to comply with quality standards and to take from the bushes just the right leaves. Raw materials for high-grade teas are often grown on small plantations, which are located separately on the slopes, so that to the leaf collection is added the need to move from one plantation to another. 

The need for manual harvesting limits the cultivation of tea. Repeatedly attempts were made to mechanize the harvesting and sorting tea leaves, in particular, in the USSR in 1958 created a mechanized tea-collect unit, but the technology of mechanized harvesting has not yet been brought. 

Depending on the location, the new sprouts are collected once a month or once every few weeks. 

Kilogram of green leaf costs 150 rupees. This is about $1-1.5 

Collect tea can anyone. But for each kilogram of harvested tea the collector must pay 100 Rupees to the owner of bush land. 

Total for the day, tea pickers earn up to 10 to 15 dollars. 

After collecting the women bring tea to control point where the owner checks that they have collected, look for foreign objects in bags. 

Next, the bags are weighed, and the owner of the plantation takes them to a tea factory.

Here are brought the bags of tea. 

Men working at the factory are not enough. They perform only the most complex work, such as cutting wood for the furnace or repairing machines.

In the furnace the temperature is 120 degrees Celsius , this air dries the leaves. Deviations greater than 5 degrees are not allowed. 

Markings on the stairs. 

In the factory, there is ideal organization for employees to track.Layout is everywhere, signs and patterns, people are like robots. 

The first stage in the manufacture of tea is drying. Tea leaves are laid out on the grid and blown with warm air, temperature 32-40 ° C for 4-8 hours. Leaf loses some moisture and soften.

Leaves are turned upside-down manually. 

The most expensive tea - white. It is made from TIPS (unblown tea buds) and young leaves, past the minimum number of processing stages in the production process, usually only the withering and drying. Despite the name, white tea has a higher degree of oxidation (12%) than most green teas. Among white teas there are purely TIPS-made teas and other prepared from a mixture of TIPS and sheets. In the dry form has a bright yellow color. 

Next leaf is rolled in special machines, rollers. During the rolling process leaves release a portion of the juice. The blades of the machine to twist the tea leaves are made of wood Kitul.

Twisting the tea leaves, on the one hand, preserves the best qualities of tea, significantly increasing the storage period, on the other - allows you to control the extraction of essential oils and other active ingredients that tea "gives" through the process of brewing.


Depending on the intensity, time and temperature of twisting you can get different tastes of tea. The most intense and strong teas are derived from a strongly twisted leaves, and milder in taste and aromatic - from the slightly twisted tea leaves. 

After twisting Fermentation occurs - the process of oxidation and fermentation of the cell sap. The tea leaves are laid out on a flat surface and placed in cool, moist shaded areas. 

In the fermentation process the tea leaves are dark brown and emit a characteristic spicy flavor. Ideal conditions for fermentation quality - a combination of air temperature around 15 C with humidity around 90 percent. Fermentation can last from 45 minutes to several hours.


Many of the machines left over from the British, they are more than 100 years old.

Further, tea is dried at a temperature of 90-95 ° C for black tea and 105 ° C for green tea. At the same time the oxidation stops and humidity of tea is reduced up to 3-5%. Drying of tea leaves at high temperature stops the fermentation process. 

At the same time is very important to capture the stage where the tea leaves will give a flavor otherwise you can get over-fermented  product whose taste will be much worse and brew - less transparent. This moment is very delicate: if the tea is not dried, it just moldy and rot. And if you retain moisture - leaves get charred and drink from them will get burnt flavor.

Here tea is sorted by size of tea leaves.

Already prepared tea is passed through this machine. It catches tea leaves of wrong color and eliminates them. 

And this machine sorts tea according to leaf size. 

Ready, sieved tea is packed in paper bags. 

Marking - an important point when buying tea - information is on the label. It must be designated: a place where tea was collected, information about the manufacturer, weight, expiration date, type of tea, variety and international labeling of tea leaves. 

Women, factory workers, load bags with tea in the truck, which will take them away to the port. 

Material by: Ilya Varlamov |


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great hub!!

    • ProdigyWarrior profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Oh thank you Misty May!I always try to find interesting and useful information.

    • Misty May profile image

      Riley Clark 

      10 years ago

      lol that was supose to be WOW not ow :)

    • Misty May profile image

      Riley Clark 

      10 years ago

      ow these are amazing pictures. Not many hubs have great information and amazing pics to go with it!

    • ProdigyWarrior profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Thank you Jan Fowler for your positive feedback!I am glad that you liked this hub.

    • Jan Fowler profile image

      Jan Fowler 

      10 years ago from Santa Clarita, California

      The pictures in this hub are beautiful and amazing! Especially as it seemed difficult to get "inside" the growing and processing areas. It is very interesting to read about the tea making process from plant to tea cup. Thank you for this terrific hub.


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