Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka (Part 2)

Tea Production in Sri Lanka...

Tea production in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world's fourth largest producer of tea and the industry is one of the country's main sources of foreign exchange and a significant source of income for laborers, with tea accounting for 12% of the GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually. In 1995, Sri Lanka was the world's leading exporter of tea, (rather than producer) with 23% of the total world export, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. The tea sector employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people in Sri Lanka and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall in the country's central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1847 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.

Cultivation and Processing:
Over 188,175 hectares (727 sq. mi) or approximately 4% of the country’s land area is covered in tea plantations. The crop is best grown at high altitudes of over 2,100 m (6,890 ft.), and the plants require an annual rainfall of more than 100–125 cm (39–49 in). 

Tea is cultivated in Sri Lanka using the ‘contour planting’ method, where tea bushes are planted in lines in coordination with the contours of the land, usually on slopes. For commercial manufacture the ‘flush’ or leaf growth on the side branches and stems of the bush are used. Generally two leaves and a bud, which have the flavor and aroma, are skillfully plucked, usually by womenSri Lanka is one of the few countries where each tea leaf is picked by hand rather than by mechanization; if machinery were used, often a considerable number of coarse leaves and twigs could be mixed in, adding bulk but not flavor to the tea. With experience the women acquire the ability to pluck rapidly and set a daily target of around 15 to 20 kg (33 to 44 lb.) of tea leaves to be weighed and then transported to the nearby tea factory. Tea plants in Sri Lanka require constant nurturing and attention. An important part of the process is taking care of the soils with the regular application of fertilizer. Younger plants are regularly cut back 10–15 cm (4–6 in) from the ground to encourage lateral growth and are pruned very frequently with a special knife.
The tea factories found on most tea estates in Sri Lanka are crucial to the final quality and value of manufactured tea. After plucking, the tea is very quickly taken to the muster sheds to be weighed and monitored under close supervision, and then the teas are brought to the factory. A tea factory in Sri Lanka is typically a multi-storied building and located on tea estates to minimize the costs and time between plucking and tea processing. The tea leaves are taken to the upper floors of the factories where they are spread in troughs, a process known as withering, which removes excess moisture in the leaf. Once withered, the tea leaves are rolled, twisted and parted, which serves as a catalyst for the enzymes in the leaves to react with the oxygen in the air, especially with the production of black tea.
The leaves are rolled on circular brass or wooden battened tables and are placed in a rotating open cylinder from above. After rolling is finished, the leaf particles are spread out on a table where they begin to ferment upon being exposed to heat. However, the preliminary heat is from the natural air temperature, so fermentation times fluctuate according to the temperature and humidity. Regulating the temperature, humidity and the duration of fermentation times requires a great deal of attention, and failure to follow the exact guidelines will make the flavor of the tea disappear. As oxidization occurs the color of the leaf changes from a green to a bright coppery color. It is now that artificial heat comes into play as the fermented leaf is inserted into a firing chamber to prevent further chemical reactions from taking place. The tea leaves are fired to retain the flavor after the fermentation process is complete. Again the regulation of the temperature plays an important role in the final quality of the tea, and on completion the tea will become black and harder. 

Grading (ordered by size in Sri Lanka) then takes place as the tea particles are sorted into different shapes and sizes by sifting them through meshes. No artificial preservatives are added at any stage of the manufacturing process and sub-standard tea which fails to initially comply with standards is rejected regardless of the quantity and value. Finally, the teas are weighed and packed into tea chests or paper sacks and then given a close inspection. The tea is then sent to the local auction and transported to the tea brokering companies. At the stage of exporting the Sri Lanka Tea Board will check and sample each shipment after the completion of packing to ensure that the finest quality tea is exported and then it is finally shipped in various forms of packing to many parts of the world.

Cultivation Areas:

The major tea growing areas are Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in Central Province, Badulla, Bandarawela and Haputale in Uva Province, Galle, Matara and Mulkirigala in Southern Province, and Ratnapura and Kegalle in Sabaragamuwa Province.
There are mainly six principal regions planting tea - Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Kandy Uda Pussellawa, Uva Province and Southern Province. Nuwara Eliya is an oval shaped plateau at an elevation of 6,240 feet (1,902 m). Nuwara Eliya tea produces a unique flavor.
Dimbula was one the first areas to be planted in the 1870s. An elevation between 3,500 to 5,000 ft.(1,067 to 1,524m) defines this planting area. South-western monsoon rain and cold weather from January to March are determining factors of flavor. Eight sub districts of Dimbula are Hatton/Dickoya, Bogawanthalawa, Upcot/Maskeliya, Patana/Kotagala, Nanu Oya/Lindula/Talawakele, Agarapatana, Pundaluoya and Ramboda.
Kandy is famous for Mid-grown tea. The first tea plantations were established here. Tea plantations are located at elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 ft. (610 to 1,219 m). Pussellawa/Hewaheta and Matale are the two main sub districts of the region. Uda Pussellawa is situated between Nuwara Eliya and Uva Province. Northwest monsoons prevail in this region. Plantations near Nuwara Eliya have a range of rosy teas. The two sub districts are Maturata and Ragala/Halganoya. 
Uva area's teas have quite a distinctive flavor and are widely used for blends. The elevation of tea plantations range from 3,000 to 5,000 ft. (914 to 1,524m). Being a large district, Uva has a number of sub districts, Malwatte/Welimada, Demodara/Hali-Ela/Badulla, Passara/Lunugala, Madulsima, Ella/Namunukula, Bandarawela/Poonagala, Haputale, and Koslanda/Haldummulla.
Low-grown tea mainly originates from southern Sri Lanka. These teas are grown from sea level to 2,000 ft. (610 m), and thrive in fertile soils and warm conditions. These areas are spread across four main sub districts, Ratnapura/Balangoda, Deniyaya, Matara, and Galle. 
The high-grown tea thrives above 1,200 m (3,937 ft.) of elevation, warm climate and sloping terrain. Hence this type is common in the Central Highlands. Mid-grown tea is found in the 600–1,200 m (1,969–3,937 ft.) altitude range. Various types of tea are blended to obtain the required flavor and color. Uva Province, and Nuwara Eliya, Dimbuala and Dickoya are the areas where mid-grown tea originates. Low-grown tea is stronger and less-subtle in taste and is produced in Galle, Matara and Ratnapura areas. 

  • Ceylon Black Tea 

Ceylon black tea is one of the country's specialties. It has a crisp aroma reminiscent of citrus, and is used both unmixed and in blends. It is grown on numerous estates which vary in altitude and taste

  • Ceylon Green Tea 

 Ceylon green tea is mainly made from Assamese tea stock. It is grown    in Idalgashinna in Uva Province. Ceylon green teas generally have the fuller body and the more pungent, rather malty, nutty flavor characteristic of the teas originating from Assamese seed stock. The tea grade names of most Ceylon green teas reflect traditional Chinese green tea nomenclature, such as tightly rolled gunpowder tea, or more open leaf tea grades with Chinese names like Chun Mee. Overall, the green teas from Sri Lanka have their own characteristics at this time - they tend to be darker in both the dry and infused leaf, and their flavor is richer; this could change in the future. As market demand preferences change, the Ceylon green tea producers start using more of the original Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Brazilian seed base, which produces the very light and sparkling bright yellow color and more delicate, sweet flavor with which most of the world market associates green teas. At this time, Sri Lanka remains a very minor producer of green teas and its green teas, like those of India and Kenya, remain an acquired taste. Much of the green tea produced in Sri Lanka is exported to North Africa and Middle Eastern markets.

  • Ceylon White Tea 

Ceylon white tea, also known as "silver tips" is highly prized, and prices per kilogram are significantly higher than other teas. The tea was first grown at Nuwara Eliya near Adam's Peak between 2,200–2,500 meters (7,218–8,202 ft). The tea is grown, harvested and rolled by hand with the leaves dried and withered in the sun. It has a delicate, very light liquoring with notes of pine & honey and a golden coppery infusion. 'Virgin White Tea' is also grown at the Handunugoda Tea Estate near Galle in the south of Sri Lanka.

Branding and Grading:

Ceylon tea is divided into three groups: High or Upcountry (Udarata), Middle country (Medarata), and Low country (Pahatha rata) tea, based on the geography of the land on which it is grown.
Tea produced in Sri Lanka carries the "Lion Logo" on its packages, which indicates that the tea was produced in Sri Lanka. The use of the Lion Logo is closely monitored by the Sri Lanka Tea Board,  which is the governing body of the tea industry in Sri Lanka. If a tea producer demands to use the Lion Logo on his packaging, they need to gain permission from the Sri Lanka Tea Board. The tea board then performs a strict inspection procedure, the passing of which allows the producer to use the logo, along with the "Pure Ceylon Tea - Packed in Sri Lanka" slogan on their tea packaging. Each and every consignment is thoroughly inspected by Sri Lanka Tea board officers before being shipped. Therefore the Lion Logo and the wording is indeed the assurance of the origin of the tea and of its quality.
Most of the Sri Lankan tea exporters now focus on adding more value to the exports rather than exporting raw tea. The name "Ceylon Tea" or "Sri Lankan tea" is still regarded as a sign of quality throughout the world.
Grading names which are used in Sri Lanka to classify its teas are not by any means the indication of its quality but indicate its size and appearance. Mainly there are two categories. They are "Leaf grades" and "Smaller broken grades". Leaf grades refer to the size and appearance of the teas that were produced during Sri Lanka's colonial era (which are still being used) and the other refers to the modern tea style and appearance.

Ceylon Tea Museum:
The Sri Lanka Tea Board opened a Tea Museum in Hantana, Kandy in 2001. Although exhibits are not abundant they do provide a valuable insight into how tea was manufactured in the early days. Old machinery, some dating back more than a century, has been lovingly restored to working order. The first exhibit that greets visitors is the Ruston and Hornsby developed diesel engine, as well as other liquid fuel engines, located in the Engine Room on the ground floor of the museum. Power for the tea estates were also obtained by water driven turbines.
The museum's "Rolling Room" offers a glimpse into the development of manufacturing techniques, with its fascinating collection of rollers. Here the showpiece is the manually operated 'Little Giant Tea Roller'.


Post a Comment