Thursday, March 10, 2011

Description of Ceylon picking and firing from 1888

Some more of my digging through antique ephemera produced this, from an 1888 edition of Good Housekeeping magazine (the second sentence of which and others are of interest to those who were piqued by my previous post about tea adulteration) ...


Tea is getting to be a great product of Ceylon and the export is already 10 million pounds. It is claimed in behalf of this tea that it is cleaner than Chinese or Japanese tea, which is manipulated and adulterated until its quality is considerably deteriorated. In Ceylon, coolies pick the tea leaves, which are spread on trays to wither under cover for about a day. The withered leaf is then placed in a rolling machine, driven by power, and rolled for an hour, and during the process the leaves become a moist and twisted mass, out of which the expressed juice freely rolls. The leaves are then placed in trays to ferment or oxydize, during which process they change from a green to a copper color. The subsequent flavor and strength of the tea depend, to a great extent, on the fermentation, which is a chemical process, the success of which is due to the weather.

Firing is the next process. The tea is thinly spread on trays and placed either on charcoal stoves or in large iron drying machines, and at the end of half an hour it is thoroughly crisp and dried and has become tea. The tea is then sized by being passed through sieves of different mesh, giving the varieties of Broken Pekoe, Pekoe, Souchong, Congou and Dust. The first mentioned, which consists chiefly of the opening bud of the leaf, gives the strongest tea; so strong that the other teas are mixed with it. The tea is again slightly fired to drive off any suspicion of moisture, and packed while warm in lead lined boxes.

Ceylon tea may now be bought in the American market. It is extolled for its strength and flavor, and it is said that two pounds of it will go farther than three pounds of Chinese or Japanese tea. It is said to have a fragrance that is peculiarly its own.

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