The tea plant belongs to the genus Camellia, the true species referred to as Camellia sinensis. Tea is grown in Sri Lanka (known as the Island of Ceylon) up to an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level in a temperate climate with abundant rainfall (the tea plant requires a minimum of 100-125 centimeters of rainfall annually). In Sri Lanka approximately 188,000 hectares (i.e. 3% of the area of the whole country) is occupied by lush green tea plantations.
Only the two uppermost tender leaves and the bud are used for the production of high quality Hyleys tea. These two-leaves-&-buds are plucked manually with much care. The plucked raw leaf is then taken to the factory, where it undergoes several stages of processing.
The first production stage is withering. Tea leaves are placed in special racks (troughs) and treated with a gentle air flow so that extra moisture is removed from the leaf. This process may take 6-20 hours.
The second stage is rolling. This process is done mechanically, using special machines with rolling tables. The tea leaves undergo a pressure-rolling process where the cell structure of the leaf is broken up to release the valuable constituents in the leaf. During the rolling process these juices start to react with atmospheric oxygen and the ‘oxidization’ stage begins.
Roll-breaking is the next intermediately production stage. With the use of vibrating sieves the rolled tea leaves are separated into required or suitable sized batches.
The next stage – fermentation (controlled oxidization), is required for making black tea. The twisted, rolled & separated tea leaf is spread evenly on tables and left to oxidize. This process may take 20 minutes to 3 hours. It is during this stage that the tea obtains a coppery color and soft velvety taste of the final brew (Green tea does not undergo the oxidization process and contrary to it, the leaves are pan-fried or steamed to arrest oxidization soon after rolling).
Then comes the stage of firing (or drying). The tea leaf is dried using a hot air machine called the direr. The oxidization process comes to an end with this heat application. The reduction of moisture at drying stage is essential for the keeping qualities of made tea.
After that, the tea undergoes sorting. The made tea is sorted according to the size and grade of the tea leaf particles. The quality of the tea does not get affected greatly during this stage, but it is a valuable stage in the production of tea to give its attractive appearance, consistency in brewing and packaging.
Finally, the tea is packed into consumer packages of choice and is exported to customers all over the world.