The New Student's Reference Work/Tea

Tea, the prepared leaves of Thea Chinensis or the drink made from them. The plant probably is native to India, and was introduced into China and Japan. Tea has for ages been a favorite beverage in China, and now is one of the world's most generally used non-alcoholic drinks. The very best qualities do not bear transporting, and are seldom found outside of the country where grown. In the intense tropical conditions in which the native plants grow they become small trees; but in the colder climate of China and Japan they become bushy, with smaller and tougher leaves. In cultivation the shrub grows to from three to six feet, is branchy, the leaves from two to six inches long. The third year the first crop is obtained. There are three pickings a year; in April a rare quality is obtained from the new leaves, May is the time of the principal picking, and a very inferior grade is obtained from a later harvest. The black and green teas are not derived from different plants, but are the results of the different methods of preparation, the black tea being given long exposure to the air in drying. Enormous quantities of tea are produced in China, Japan, India, Ceylon and Java, but most of it is used by the native populations. Our southern states are well-adapted for varieties of tea, the plant not


From Brown Bros.
TEA PLANT. This picture of the tea plant shows the leaf, blossom and seed pods. The bush often shows blossoms and seed at the same time. If left to nature, the tea plant will grow to a height of twenty feet, but as cultivated it is kept down to from two to five feet by constant pruning. The average tea tree lives for fifty years, though it is said that there are records in China of trees living three hundred years. PICKING TEA IN CEYLON. Here the Tamil coolies are seen at work under the watchful eye of the task-master. The tea baskets hold about fourteen pounds and the average is three baskets per coolie per day. The picking begins about the end of April and usually lasts until the end of November. Only the tip of the shoot and soft leaves are picked.
From Brown Bros. From Brown Bros.
TEA ROLLER. After the tea is picked it is spread out on trays or racks and left to wither from eighteen to twenty hours. It is then taken to the roller, which we see in this picture. The object of rolling is to squeeze out the moisture left after withering, and to give the leaves a good twist.

FERMENTING. The next process is fermenting. The leaf is spread on the floor of a cool room, covered with wet cloths and allowed to ferment until it turns to a bright copper tint. This is when black tea is wanted. If green tea is desired, the leaves are not fermented. Green tea and black tea may come from the same tree; the difference is due to the manner of treatment after picking.

Copyright by B. L. Singley
FIRING. After fermentation the leaf is spread on wire trays, and pushed into this machine which we see in the picture, where a current of hot air from 210° to 220° Fahr. is passed through it. The tea comes out dry and brittle and of a black color. SELECTING TEA LEAVES. After the tea has been sifted and separated into grades, the tea that is intended for exportation is spread out on a table and gone over once more, usually by girls who divide the leaves, the larger from the smaller, and pick out all objectionable bits that remain.
From Brown Bros.
SIFTING. After firing the tea is run through the sifting machine which sorts it into various grades known in the market as Broken Orange Pekoe, Orange Pekoe, Pekoe Souchong, Fannings and Dust. This picture shows a sifting machine and different grades of tea spread on trays.