After tea is picked
After being picked, the tea leaves are placed onto huge withering troughs, and to a depth of about 12 inches. Withering causes the leaf to lose about 60% of its moisture and this takes approximately 12 hours to achieve.
The leaf is put through a large roller, which gently breaks it down in size. This process is necessary whether manufacturing larger speciality leaves, or smaller ones for tea bags.
The leaf is broken down into smaller particles using CTC ( Cut, Tear and Curl ) rollers. These rollers can produce smaller leaves which are required for tea bag production, given the need for a relatively fast infusion within the confines of what is a small and compact pouch.
The juices released from the leaf after it is torn contain enzymes which react with oxygen in the air to oxidise or ferment. Over the period of an hour, this causes the leaves to turn a coppery colour much in the same way that an apple will, soon after the protective skin is broken.
Something the Thompsons do every day. Only the top quality tea gardens submit their samples to the Thompsons tea tasting room for scrutiny. A small sample of each tea is precisely weighed out, brewed for 3 minutes in special pots, then the brewed leaves are strained off. Ross and David Thompson carefully examine each brew for colour, flavour, character and strength making sure that the teas are free from any taint and that the fermenting and drying stages have maximised the leaf´s potential.
Business is done through specialist tea brokers who act on behalf of the tea garden owners or through auction houses. The Mombasa tea auction in Kenya is one of the largest in the world and almost 100,000 tea chests go under the hammer every week.
Teas were first shipped to the U.K. in 1655, and these teas, from China, took 15 months to complete the treacherous journey by sailing ships. Today, teas destined for Punjana are transported by ship from Mombasa and Calcutta, taking just 6 weeks. Handling of the precious and delicate teas is avoided by placing the tea in sealed containers at the tea garden and the tea remains completely untouched until the seal is broken when the container arrives at our factory in Belfast.