Uganda Tea Development Agency

Your true partner in the tea industry

From Bush To Cup

These are various steps of tea processing from bush to cup

1. Cultivation.

Tea bushes are planted - from 1 metre to 1.5 metres apart - to follow the natural contours of the landscape, sometimes growing on specially prepared terraces to help irrigation and to prevent erosion. Young plants are raised from cuttings obtained from a mother bush and they are carefully tendered in special nursery beds until 12 - 15 months old. They are then planted out in the tea fields. The mother bush is a strong, rich plant carefully selected for propagation.

2. Leaf Collection

Tea is grown in the field but must be made in a factory. This is because unlike most herbals that only need to be dried, commercial tea must be “processed”.

3. Preparation ( Withering )

This is one of the most expensive processes of tea manufacture in terms of space and time taken. This first stage of tea manufacture may take 10 to 20 hours and its main purpose is to bring down the internal moisture of the leaf to between 65 to 67% WB. It also initiates chemical reactions in the leaf cell necessary for quality tea production.
This reduction in moisture makes the leaf pliable and easier to cut in the next stage.

4. Preparation ( Maceration )

The processes of tea manufacture produces three major types of made tea: green tea that is unfermented, oolong that is semi-fermented and black tea that is fully fermented.
Almost all tea produced in Uganda is by the CTC (crush, tear and curl) method. This method produces black tea that has the advantage of quicker brewing and which makes mores cups per Kg.

5. Fermentation

Fermentation or oxidization is the most important stage in the manufacture of black tea, and this process makes it uniquely different from all other teas. Fermentation is carried out in custom-designed fermentation rooms. Depending on the temperature, maceration technique and the style of tea desired, the fermentation time range from 45 minutes to 3 hours. The characteristic coppery color and fermented tea aroma judge the completion of fermenting.

6. Drying

This is the process that stops fermentation and introduces a stable product of low moisture content between 3.0 to 3.3% that can be shipped and stored.
It involves the physical removal of moisture and it’s a crucial process as it seals in all the flavour, aroma and character created during manufacture, that are released by brewing. Drying can therefore make a difference between a mediocre tea and a superb tea even though they may come from the same factory.

7. Tasting

During tasting, samples of tea are collected hourly from each grade and also the drier mouth teas and infused for five minutes in different cups.
The liquor is the poured to different bowls. The taster then evaluates the tea for quality and manufacturing faults by sucking and atomising the liquid into his mouth and allowing it to linger there long enough for the flavour and character to be appreciated. He then spits it out or sometimes, swallows it.

8. Auction

UTDAL sells tea on behalf of small-scale tea growers through the Mombasa Auction, held every Monday except on public holidays, in which it is held on the day after the public holiday. Mombasa Auction has become a world re-nowned tea market centre for East and Central Africa tea producing countries. The Auction is conducted under the supervision of the East Africa Tea Trade Association (EATTA).

9. Shipping

From the efficient port of Mombasa,the teas are shipped to various tea consuming countries from where it is blended and packed into various brands.