The production process is a complex activity composed of 7 steps, which all require great care to ensure premium quality.
Tea picking is still conducted in the traditional manner, where tea leaves are handpicked and gathered into the wide baskets of the tea pickers. Hand picking ensures that only the best leaves of the tea plant are collected and used for tea production. The best leaves are the so called “two leaves and a bud” – the leaf bud itself and two nearest young leaves.
Believe it or not, a picker plucks up to 25kg of green leaves a day, which corresponds to approximately 4-6kg of ready tea. The picked leaves are then processed straightaway, at the plantation, to avoid the loss of aroma and thereby also quality.
For approximately 10 – 12 hours, the freshly picked leaves are spread out over mats where warm currents of air are blown over them. This results in a 30% liquid loss of the tea leaf and ensures its smoothness.
According to the type of tea, the tea leaves are either steamed or fermented. The steaming process applies to green teas only. Here, the leaves are heated at a high temperature thus stopping the fermentation process, which would otherwise occur. With this method, the leaves retain their delicate flavour as well as their green colour.
The fermentation process is used for black teas only. Humid air is streamed over the leaves resulting in enzymes combining with oxygen.
Before the drying process takes place, the leaves are ripped by metal plates in order to release their essential oils.
Tea leaves are dried on so-called treadmills for approximately 20 minutes. After the drying process a stable product called raw tea is produced.
In this stage leaves are sorted according to their size. There are four main types of grades for classifying tea; namely dust, fanning, broken and whole leaves.
At the production plant, leaves are blended according to traditional and modern recipes to achieve the final tea blend.
This final step, one of the most crucial points, ensures that consistently high quality standards are maintained. Tea tasters conduct a sensory test according to taste, smell, physical feel and appearance of the leaves. A sample of each new lot of tea is inspected at the Julius Meinl quality control centre before it is purchased.