How Joe’s teas are made
We source and purchase our teas and ingredients mostly from small producers in the third world where it is ensured that their livelihood is sustainable. They use natural resources and adopt sustainable agricultural practices that help preserve the earth for future generations. We ensure that all our suppliers are selected and monitored based on their good environmental practices. Using recycled, biodegradable and recyclable materials is a must.
Approximately 4% of Sri Lanka’s land is covered in tea plantations. The crop is best grown at high altitudes of over 2,100m and the plants require an annual rainfall of more than 125cm. Using the ‘contour planting’ method, tea bushes are planted in lines following the contours of the land, usually on slopes. Tea requires constant nurturing and attention, an important part of the process is taking care of the organic soil the tea is grown in, we believe that tea tastes better grown in happy, organic soil and all our tea is.
It is the ‘flush’ (leaf growth on the side branches and stems of the bush) that is used in commercial manufacture. Generally two leaves and a bud, which have the flavour and aroma, are skilfully plucked. All our tea is picked by hand, rather than machine, ensuring that no coarse leaves or twigs are mixed in which add bulk but definitely not taste. Experienced pickers can pluck 15 to 20kg per day which are then weighed and transported to the factory.
Withering & rolling
After plucking, the tea is very quickly taken to the muster sheds to be weighed and monitored under close supervision before the teas are taken to the factory. The tea leaves are then taken to be spread in troughs, a process known as withering, which removes excess moisture from the leaf. Once withered, the leaves are rolled, twisted and parted which prompts the enzymes in the leaves to react with the oxygen in the air, especially in the production of black tea.
After the rolling is finished they are spread out onto a table where they begin to ferment upon being exposed to the heat from the natural air temperature, so fermentation times fluctuate according to temperature and humidity. The regulation of temperature, humidity and duration requires a great deal of skill and constant attention, failure to do so destroys the flavour.
As oxidisation occurs the colour of the leaf changes from a green to a bright coppery colour. Now the fermented leaf is put in a firing champer to prevent further chemical reactions from taking place.
The tea is then graded by size and sorted by sifting it through mesh. All of our tea is whole leaf so we get the top grade, the smaller bits of leaf go down through the mesh onto the next grade and so forth until the smallest grade is just dust, this is the tea you find in typical tea bags and what you may refer to as ‘builders brew’.
The tea is then rigorously tasted by our expert team of tasters, they taste every single batch that comes out of the factory before the tea is packaged and sold. The tea is then weighed and packed. At the stage of exporting, the Sri Lanka Tea Board check and taste a sample of each shipment to ensure that the finest quality of tea is exported.