20 September 2008

Our Tour Continues

The next step in the processing is called CTC. It stands for cutting, tearing, and curing. After that comes CFU. This is where the continuous fermenting units are located. An enzyme in the tea leaves reacts to oxygen in the air. This is a naturally occurring process and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. When it is completed, the tea leaves will have a coppery color.

The fourth step is drying the leaves. Below is some of the firewood that's used to dry the leaves with hot air.

By the time the leaves come out of the dryers they are almost black in color.

The 5th step is cleaning. “Magnets” grab all the pieces from the tea leaves that shouldn’t be included in the final product. The 6th step is sorting the various sizes of cut leaves. There are several grades: BP-1 and PF-1 are primarily used for exporting. PD and D-1 are very fine (almost like dust) and are used for tea bags. F-1 is the finest and is primarily consumed in Mombasa.

Step 7 is packing. Kenya exports much of its tea leaves to the UK, Germany, France, and the US. There are also some extracts removed from F-1 tea leaves. This is used for making such things as shoe polish and beer.

The final step is called Quality Control. There are trained “tasters” who taste the various grades of tea hourly. They primarily taste for acidity. BP-1 has a low acid content and D has the highest. The tasters don’t add milk or sugar.

Now when we see a tea shamba,
we’ll know how much work it takes for us to enjoy a cup of chai!

All four of us thoroughly enjoyed our tour! The boys will undoubtedly remember it for years to come. It actually was amazing that we were allowed in. Standard procedure is to send a letter requesting a tour a month in advance. Not only did we not do that, but we had two children with us, and... I was allowed to take unlimited photos!

I'll bet you're glad I didn't post all 40 of them!


Anonymous said...

That was cool to learn about!

Bethezer Kenya said...

The new blog layout looks great. Thank you for the updates dear Deb.

...hope you enjoyed the tour of Menengai and the tea factory!

[I set up a blog for Bethezer at www.bethezerkenya.blogspot.com]

Anonymous said...

I love the new layout as well!

I wish I could get a job as a tea taster ( I would sneak some cream and sugar in though I think!). :)

Very cool to see this process...reminds me of all the tours and adventures you used to take us kids on when we were younger mom! :)


Anonymous said...

Loved the tea tour, Deb. I don't drink tea, but enjoyed the tour - it would have made a great field trip for the school kids and teacher!