The Camelia Sinensis (tea plant) enjoys a warm, humid climate with temperatures ranging from 10 - 35 degree centigrate. It needs a decent amount of rainfall and prefers a deep, light, acidic and well-drained soil. With the right conditions, the tea plant will grow anywhere from sea-level up to altitudes 2100m.
Newly planted young shrubs are left untouched for two years before any pruning or plucking but once old enough, are pruned to keep them under a metre high.
This neat pruning means as new shoots appear, known as a flush are easily visible to the pickers. It is these young green leaves which are used in tea production. Different plucks produce different qualities of tea; in Darjeeling the first flush is considered the best; in Assam, it is the second.
The delicate shoots are grasped lightly between the tip of the thumb and middle finger and in a deft, downward movement broken off and thrown over the shoulder into baskets on the pickers back. Dependent on the location and of the tea plantation, plucking can take place every 7 - 14 days.
The leaves are then taken into the factory, spread onto large trays and racks and left to wither in warm air.
Once withered, the flaccid leaves are broken by rollers to release the juices and enzymes of the plant, which, as they come into contact with the air oxidise. The broken leaves are laid out in a cool, humid atmosphere for several hours to ferment, or oxidise, until eventually the leaves turn golden and oxidisation is complete.
Finally, the oxidised leaves are dried completely which further changes the colour of the leaves to black. The tea is now made. The tea will then be sorted into varying sizes before being weighted and packed into tea chests some for loose tea and some for tea bags. Along the way the Factory Tea Tasters will check the flavour of the tea and to make sure it is not contaminated, and once satisfied, samples will be sent to brokers to be evaluated for quality and of course, price.