THE TEA EXPERIENCE
India’s tea plantations beckon nature lovers and tea cravers alike.
The experience is about the unending hill slopes shrouded with the green carpet of tea bushes, the idyllic chirping of the melodious birds, the zesty flowing streams, the colonial comfort in the Director’s bungalows and above all ..the best of the teas to be enjoyed.
A retreat in tea gardens set amidst mountainous terrain, lush vegetation, and incredible vistas is perhaps the most exotic and innovative way to enjoy nature.
However your tea experience is incomplete without the tea estate visit wherein you get a complete insight into how our master hands are working from the plantation of the tea to the end product. It is a complete process from the tea nursery to the final aroma. The Nya Sylee and Sylee tea estate is spread across 2100 hectares in total with an annual yield of 2 million kgs of tea.
We start our trip to the tea plantations from the tea nursery where tea plants are developed for planting in the tea fields.
Here tea seeds are planted on nursery beds in rows. When land is insufficient, seedlings are raised in polythene sleeves. The sleeves can be placed in a permanent nursery site where irrigation facilities exist. Clones can also be planted directly into sleeves. Cuttings are taken from the primaries with dormant apical buds (banji state) for higher success. A good cutting should have a fully mature healthy undamaged leaf, dormant or just swelling bud and a hard green stem.
Shade should be such that cuts about 50% of the mid-day sun light falling on the nursery bed. The plants should be kept outside without shade for a couple of weeks before taking them to the field.
Absolute dependence on clones for commercial cultivation of a long duration crop like tea is a risky proposition as all bushes of a clone widely separated in space and time behave in most ways as a single bush whereas being the progeny of a hybrid parents, no two bushes in a population of tea raised from seed are alike. Hence, seed populations can be fitted into a wide range of environmental and cultural conditions without much change in their overall performance. So being genetically different all bushes of a seed population are unlikely to suffer equally from the attack of a pest or a disease while all bushes of a clone will be equally susceptible.
Now we proceed to see the planting of new plants in the fields.
The ready plants are planted in the fields. Normally, planting can be done in April-June and September-October or October-November with adequate irrigation. Periods of heavy rains are avoided. Only healthy plants 40-60 cm high with at least 12 good mature leaves and of pencil thickness are taken for planting in field. Before plants are removed from nursery, they are hardened by gradual exposure to full sun. Transportation of the plants to the planting site in field is done with utmost care and only after proper labelling. This is a very delicate operation and needs adequate planning and proper supervision. Correctly planted tea plants establish in the field quickly, grow vigorously and come into full bearing earlier.
You proceed to witness and experience the plucking of tea leaves in the traditional costume of the pluckers and take pictures for memories.
Plucking: Proper plucking of Tea leaves is as unique as its flavour. As true quality is inherent in a good raw material (Tea Leaf), great emphasis is given to plucking. Special flavours are generated by maintaining fine plucking standards.
Plucking in tea is synonymous with harvesting in other crops. The tender apical portions of shoots consisting of 2-3 leaves and the terminal buds are nipped off in plucking. The plucked shoots are manufactured to produce tea. Removal of the apical portion of a tea shoot stimulates growth of the dormant leaf and buds below the apex. There are three plucking systems presently in vogue but whatever may be the plucking system, the harvested leaf should not be coarse as coarse leaf is harmful for quality of the product. Secondly, shoots below the plucking surface should be left alone.
After the plucking trip, you proceed to see the manufacturing of tea in the tea factory to see the tea leaves take the form of tea granules.
The company possesses an independent set up of HACCP and ISO 22000 certified processing and packaging units. Freshly plucked leaves are brought to the factories situated at our gardens, for processing into “CTC leaf” and “Dust Tea”.
The complete process in the correct order is as follows:
Withering: Withering is the first processing step in the factory and is a process in which freshly plucked leaf is conditioned physically, as well as, chemically for subsequent processing stages. As known, in planter’s perception, “Withering makes or mars the tea”. This is one of the most important tea processing steps, as a desired quality in tea manufacturing is ensured by maintaining the desired level of withering.Various ingenious systems of withering have been used but of these the Trough withering is the most popular system currently being used all over the world. The troughs are of two types – Open trough and Enclosed trough. It is, however, more convenient to load and unload leaf in the open troughs and it is easier to check the progress of wither. Therefore, open troughs are still popular in the industry. In the open type of trough, leaf is spread at a given thickness and air is blown upwards from the bottom of the perforated bed. This is the method being used at Octavius too.
Fermentation: A great deal of attention is paid to regulate the temperature, humidity and the duration of fermentation to ensure that the flavour of the tea remains intact.
Firing/Drying: To get the best quality of our tea, the tea leaves are fired at optimally regulated temperature. Good care is taken not to over-cook the leaves as the process of drying of the produced tea is responsible for addition of flavor to the tea.
Grading: Grading is done by sifting through meshes with a lot of care so that the teas are sorted into different shapes and sizes perfectly.
Weighing and Packing: Close inspection is done while the teas are weighed and packed into tea chests or paper sacks or poly pouches for retailing and exports.
You proceed for a tea tasting session
The Tea Tasting session is an occasion to learn more about tea, while exploring the diversity and quality of teas we have to offer. Information on the unique character of each tea, the type of cultivar, its origin, and the infusion method will be provided as we taste.
Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a takeoff. Don’t just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won’t happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you’ll love it up here.
Ready for an adventure?