1. Every tea leaf in Assam is hand-plucked.
2. In India, only the tea tribes really know how to pluck tea. No formal training programs in plucking exist. Mothers mentor their daughter over many years to pass on the skill. The women who pluck the leaves know exactly which point on the leaf is the ‘break’ point, and what size of leaves to pluck. Good quality plucking requires immense concentration and skill.
3. The Indian tea industry employs more women than any other industry in world. Women make up nearly 100% of the pluckers.
4. One can pluck a tea plant for up to 100 years! Tea plants can survive huge amounts of stress – dry spells, over watering, chemical fertilizer, pest attacks—making it one of the hardest plants in agriculture. Only long-term water logging from flooding regularly kills tea plants.
5. Tea is NOT a bush. Left to nature, tea plants grow to 10-15 feet tall. To increase the harvest potential, workers train the plant like a bonsai. This maintains the height and flat surface for easy plucking. Different regions of the world train the plant differently to suit their own plucking techniques.
6. In Assam, estates harvest and manufacture tea EVERYDAY (minus Sundays) from March – December. Ideally, each bush is plucked every 7 days. Left unplucked, the bush starts losing its ‘table’ shape, and the leaf becomes tough.
7. It takes only 20 hours to make drinkable black tea from a plucked leaf. The chemical reaction that makes the tannins active starts the moment the tea leaf is plucked. To make high quality black teas, producers pluck and transport the plucked leaves to the manufacturing unit in AS LITTLE TIME as possible.
8. Making tea is an ART. It requires the right level of fermentation to get the right taste. Conditions that affect fermentation such as humidity, temperature, rainfall, and leaf condition vary every day. Therefore, factory managers have to use their instincts, born of experience, to ensure a proper tea make.
9. Every estate makes its unique style and type of tea. This is due to the SEVERAL factors determine the quality of made tea. Some of these include:
- Geographical location
- Soil type
- Quality of plucking
- Size of leaves
- The tea clones planted in the estate
- The ambient temperature
- Humidity levels during manufacture
- Machine settings during manufacture
- Fermentation time,
- Drying time
- Sorting techniques
- …and many more!
10. More than 10 DIFFERENT grades of black tea can come from the same batch of plucked leaves. All grades have unique taste and brewing characteristics. Tea makers around the world each grade for different purposes. For example, they use the smaller, denser grades of tea as a base for chai, and the larger grades to add body to flavored teas.