Saturday, June 27, 2015

Travel: A VISIT TO HARRISONS MALAYALAM LIMITED TEA FACTORY


Since the area in and around Meenmutty Resorts is rife with tea plantations, I was keen to visit a local tea factory. The resort people organised a jeep for us to take us to Harrisons Malayalam Limited that was about 20 km away.

Drying the leaves; there are fans underneath
The people at the tea factory were very friendly and showed us the whole process of “orthodox” way of tea production as against CTC. “Orthodox” tea is both black and green tea of different grades that are used for making tea that is had without milk.

They keep strict track of temperature
Harrisons Gold is their product that is mainly manufactured to be exported to UK, Singapore and a few other countries. The factory produces 35 tonnes of tea on an average day. Yes, my jaw dropped too.

Shredding machine
Tea leaves are plucked from the plantation and brought to the factory by lorry. They are spread over a huge rack with fans underneath along with a temperature gauge. This first process is to ensure that the leaves retain moisture of 58%. The process takes place over 12 hours. The drying process should neither be too fast nor too slow. This process happens on the upper floor.

Sorting into different grades
From here, the tea leaves fall through a chute onto a machine where it is shredded and separated into different grades.

Tea leaves browned @ 120 degrees F
Then the separated tea leaves are passed through a barrel like structure where they lose more moisture.

The machine trips off the second the heat goes up by even half a degree
After this, the shredded tea is spread on the floor in batches and dried under fan in a room for a few hours.

The kiln runs 24/7 - water distilled and converted to steam using wood-fire and...
Next, the tea is heated once again in something like a kiln. The maximum temperature setting is 120 degree F. The temperature is automated to avoid burning. The tea is dried by the heat of steam from distilled water that runs through pipes.

...and this mixture of wastepaper pulp & groundnut oil cake
The water is distilled on the premises by heat created from burning wood and another product which is a mix of wastepaper (this is usually from cash recycled by the Reserve Bank of India is what we were told) and the residue that occurs after removing oil from groundnuts. This part of the tea-making process is the most expensive.

The tea is ready for cooling and packing
After checking out the whole process, we got to sit with the supervisor and taste their Orange Pekoe Black Tea that was too delicious for words. We got to purchase green tea, black tea and some CTC tea (regular tea that we have at home with milk; CTC Tea is manufactured at other outlets of their factory, not in Wayanad) at less than half the market price from their recently opened sales outlet on their premises.

Orange Pekoe "orthodox" tea
I was happy to find out that most of the employees have been working for Harrisons Malayalam Limited since more than fifteen years. The attrition level is almost nil. They have 40 employees working per shift with three shifts running full swing.

Employee Udaya Kumar (with Venkat) explained the whole process
All the employees have family accommodation, one day’s leave per week and nearby schools for their children. I thought that they got a good deal, working for the company.

Viggy admits that he didn't regret the trip to the tea factory ;)
An interesting trivia the supervisor mentioned was that the tea plantation / factory is surrounded by forests. Wild elephants walk down to the factory compound every night once the main gates are shut. That must be some sight for sure!


2 comments:

  1. Hmm my favourite beverage: Tea. Nice, loved the entire read up.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Nilima! I am sure you will love Orange Pekoe tea. Do tell me :D

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