There is a tea plantation and processing site near Fianarantsoa!
If you know me, you know I love to drink tea every day, so when my coordinators were able to visit and give me a wider view of the community where we live, we drove to and spent part of a day at the Sahambavy tea plantation a few kilometers outside of the city.
I learned SO much!!! For being a multiple-times-per-day tea drinker, I’m afraid to say that I knew pitifully little about the process of tea making!
First, most embarrassingly, tea grows on trees that look like hedge bushes. Did you know that?!? I did not. I imagined that it was more like a plant such as tobacco- where you pull up the whole plant and dry it for tea. Well, no, in fact that is not the case!
Next: Did you know that black tea and green tea come from the same plant?!? They do. Well, at least this (originally Indian tea species) plant can make both! After picking the leaves in little clusters, the leaves are “aerated.” The freshly picked leaves are placed in really large table-bins that have air blowing and sucking out the water. About 30% of the water is removed in this way.
The leaves are on the tables for 24 hours of aeration. After that, the leaves are “chewed up” by a machine into ground up bits.
(Here’s where the process changes between green and black tea)
Next, for BLACK tea: the chewed up leaves are fermented for 60-80 minutes in a large vat. After fermenting, they are moved by conveyer belt into a drying furnace, with a temperature that is at a minimum of 120C, for 15-20 minutes to dry completely. From the furnace the tea grounds are moved into a room where the grounds are separated by machine into various qualities of tea based on their ground up size. There are five qualities and each is packaged separately. Once the tea arrives at a tea company, it is the tea company who will mix the teas qualities in various percentages to arrive at their desired tea flavour/caffeine content/quality.
Next for GREEN tea: after being “chewed up” by the machine, the green tea is moved onto a conveyor belt drying system where it is dried at a temperature of approximately 60C for 45-60 minutes. Then the green tea is packaged.
Our very helpful guide said that 5kgs of fresh leaves make about 1 kg of tea leaves.
Once the tea is ready, it is packaged in 50kg bags and exported to Kenya.
After sampling the black tea and black tea with vanilla flavouring, I think that the vanilla is my favourite and it just might become my new breakfast tea.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be in the Indian tea fields of Madagascar and to be able to share this beautiful experience with you.
The red earth and bright green tea plants were an incredible view of God’s awesome creation!