Wonderment best describes the feeling I had when I first entered the black tea factory at Chota Tingrai Tea Estate.
I visited the tea estate for the first time in summer of 2015. Mainly, I came to see Avantika’s organic tea gardens. They impressed me greatly. But I could not help but feel awe at the factory. Something about big machines spewing fire brings out the boyish delight in me.
The Chota Tingrai Tea Estate Black Tea factory merges the classic and the state-of-the-art. Avantika’s and Mritunjay’s great-grandfather installed many of the machines in the 1940s. These machines have man-sized gears turning fist-sized chain links to grind tea into CTC. They work with unadulterated industrial power. Others machines, like the color sorter and withering troughs, represent innovations brought to the Indian tea industry by Avantika’s and Mritunjay’s father in the 1980’s.
Today, Chota Tingrai Tea Estate is still innovating. Recently, Pop and Mritunjay have focused on the new green tea factory (check it out in next week’s blog). And the black tea factory has received crossovers from the new initiative. They have installed new, hyper-efficient gas burners. These burners cut fuel use and stabilize drying temperatures. This cuts production costs, improves quality, and reduces environmental impact. Additionally, the black tea factory has started experimenting with new rolling tables imported from Japan. These rollers improve the twist the loose teas, again improving brew quality.
But even with these innovations, the black tea factory still emphasizes craftsmanship. The CTC rollers are sharpened on site. The assistant manager still hand inspects the green leaf for the tip percentage. The manager tastes every manufacture at the dryer mouth. People ensure that the teas made in this factory are exceptional.
Since my first trip to Assam, I have visited the black tea factory at Chota Tingrai many times. It has become a familiar place to me. Still, every time I see those big machines with the roaring gas burners I feel my heart beat quicken and that boyish wonder return.
00:10—Introducing Chota Tingrai Black Tea Factory
00:37—Cut, Crush, Curl Machines
01:05—CTC ready to ferment
01:39—Tea moves to the dryer
John: Hi, welcome to behind the scenes with Mana Organics. Today, I want to show you how we make black tea at Chota Tingrai Tea Estate Factory.
John: First, freshly plucked leaf is withered in these troughs for 8-12 hours. Then we move the withered leaf to the heart of the factory for processing as either as CTC or Orthodox tea.
John: These machines are for making CTC tea.
John: First the tea is cut through the rotovaine, a roller with sharp teeth on it. Then the tea passes through three sets of tearing machines, after which it is curled into small globes. These are the small balls that you see in a Mana tea bag.
John: Then the tea is moved by conveyor belt to the fermenting bed. The fermenting bed is essentially a slow moving conveyor belt with these fork that allow the tea to aerate.
John: Then the tea moves to the dryer.
John: This gas burner heats the air in the dryer to 110 C. At this temperature, the fermenting is arrested and the end product is called made tea. From here the tea is sorted, which we will show you in a future video, and then it is ready to drink.
John: Thank you for watching our video. Hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more updates from behind the scenes at Mana Organics and Chota Tingrai Tea Estate.