I'm not sure if it is just me or wether others have thought about it as well whilst brewing up a cuppa....just what is involved during the tea making process?
Here in the UK and Europe, we do not have any tea plantations so it is impossible to observe the process first hand.There are a few tea specialists scattered around Europe including small scale blenders who guard their secrets like modern day alchemists but, of course, they are no match for the professionals who consistently grow and blend their teas keeping the same distinctive flavours year in, year out.
Recently, I made the 7000 mile journey to Java, Indonesia and took the opportunity to visit one of the bigger tea plantations whilst I was there.
Located near the city of Malang in East Java, The Wonosari tea plantation is vast, stretching as far as the eye can see and nestled amongst the surrounding mountains, a cool oasis in the tropical heat and humidity. Armies of female tea pickers work relentlessly all day picking the leaves ready for the night shift workers to process the fresh leaves.
I spent a pleasant morning walking amongst the tea terraces, chatting to the tea pickers and learning whilst taking pictures. The afternoon was spent having a private tour of the on site factory, a privillige afforded me as a professional photographer...including a peek at the off limits laboratory where the blending of the different grades of leaves is carried out !
The leaves are brought direct from the fields and loaded onto a conveyor system that looks like a miniature chair lift and are carried non stop into the factory and tipped onto a conveyor where they are sifted and carried through to the drying area.In here are huge drying belts where the leaves are slowly wound through the drying system and stockpiled ready for the night workers to sort, grade and blend the leaves prior to bagging and sorting for export.Most of the tea produced here is for export with a small amount kept for the domestic market.One of their bigger European customers is Liptons.
The normally off limits blending laboratory was fascinating to see and the staff confirmed what I already suspected....the only way to successfuly blend tea is to grow it in the first place!Like a good wine producer, many factors have to taken into account, month by month, year by year...even the weather conditions and variations have to be taken into account with some years being more ideal than others....and the blends have to be continuously tweaked to ensure that the particular taste for a particular make/blend stay consistent.
After a great day, it was only fitting that I visit the on site tea house and try the tea myself!Black sweet tea served in a glass and drunk whilst looking over the tea fields as the sun slowly slipped behind the mountains, magical!
My only regret is that I didn't buy more of the tea on site to bring back with me....a good enough excuse to visit Wonosari again I guess!!
Member since: 4th June 2013
An owner of Thebestof Portsmouth, I have lived in Portsmouth and Southsea all my life, so I like to think I have a good idea about what makes us tick. I am passionate about all things Portsmouth and Southsea,...