Where does tea come from? Probably, each of us asked this question at least once in his life. Before getting to the table, the leaves of the Chinese camellia travel a long way, thousands of kilometers and several continents.
Under the hot sun
It all starts with a plantation. Tea bushes are planted in the highlands of Kenya - where there are fertile volcanic soils, there is a source of water nearby and a lot of light. The country has a subequatorial climate, so the plantations are harvested every 7 days (in the off-season - once every 14 days). In other countries such as India and China, harvesting takes place up to 4 times a year.
The largest plantations are located in the regions of Kericho, Meru, Nandi, Nyamira, Nieri and Muranga. Most of the population of these regions work here - tea is collected exclusively by hand. 3-4 upper leaves and unopened buds, which are called tips, are carefully plucked from the bushes. Then the raw materials are immediately sent to the factory - usually the production workshops are located near the plantations.
In the factory, most of the processes are automated, so tea processing is very fast. Fresh raw materials are first of all cleaned of debris - they are sorted by hand and placed on production belts. Through them, the leaves are sent to special containers, where the tea goes through the first stage of processing. The withering process looks like this: the tea is blown with hot air and the leaves lose up to 55% moisture.
After that, the raw materials must go through a grinding stage - first, the tea is chopped with a large knife, and then ground into a fine gruel. If a factory is engaged in the production of loose leaf tea, this step is skipped. Further, the crushed (future granulated tea) and whole leaves are sent to the rolling machine. There, the raw material is ground between two discs, releases essential oils and curls.
The processing process is now in its final stage - the tea is sent back to the production belts, where it is fermented for several hours. Fermentation is responsible for how the drink tastes. Due to contact with air, the raw material is oxidized, therefore, by the end of fermentation, the tea changes color from green to brown. Green varieties do not undergo oxidation, so they retain their color. The final stage of tea production is drying - all raw materials are sent to drying machines, where the final aroma is formed under hot air. Drying also helps remove excess moisture from the leaves.
On the table
When the raw material is ready, it is packaged and sent to a tea auction in Mombasa. It is a large commercial city and the main port of the country. All raw materials that are sent for export pass through Mombasa. At the auction, clients are large tea producers who bargain with factories and make purchases. The whole process lasts no more than 2 days, and the auction itself is held once a week. Some varieties of tea (yellow, green, purple) do not participate in the auction, and after production are sent directly to the customer. Then the raw materials are sent to the tea-packing factory, where the drink is packed in branded boxes and prepared for distribution. Then the goods are sold in cafes and restaurants, delivered to supermarkets and retail stores.
People in Russia love to drink tea (about 95% of the population prefer this drink), so the goods do not linger on the shelves. Most Russians like granular Kenyan black tea (sold in individual sachets - disposable tea bags). Also, recently, the population has a growing demand for fruit teas, leafy drinks and blends. To meet these demands, the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture plans to double the supply of tea to Russia in the future