My Trip To Sri Lanka- Visiting Charbrew’s Manufacturers
Following my visit to Nuwara Eliya I made my way back down to Colombo to visit our manufacturers; one of the largest tea bagging manufacturers in the region. I was very excited to visit the people that I work with and to find out how we get that perfect cup of Charbrew to you. After a morning run along Colombo beach I was picked up by Mr Prasad.
Set in the heart of Colombo we pulled up to a gated entrance of the factory, a family run business since 1943. As we drove through the gates we entered what seemed a small gated village with many buildings of all shapes and sizes, however on closer inspection I could see the complex incorporated several businesses. I was surprised to find that tea isn’t their only area of expertise; a bubble-gum business, a printing business and a furniture business are all held within these gated walls; clear signs of a very entrepreneurial family. I was officially greeted upon my arrival a customary welcome tradition undertaken for all international visitors.
Being Welcomed Outside of the factory (Left to right Mr Praveen, Mr Prasad, Me)
As we made our way into the offices I was welcomed by members ofthe team who I have been in contact with over the past few years- the buying team, the shipping department, the finance team.
I was first introduced to the buying process. As I mentioned in my previous blog after the tea has been processed at the plantations into its bulk format (40-60kg sacks), it is then traded at the weekly tea auctions in Colombo. The buyers at the tea auctions in Sri Lanka are officially recognised as almost the only people with the right to export tea from Sri Lanka and our manufacturers are one of these participants. The Colombo Tea Auction is the largest single origin tea auction in the world and is operated through a select few brokers.
A picture of the Colombo Tea Auction
In the days preceding the auction a lot more work is done to prepare for purchasing. Our manufacturers received hundreds of samples from the tea plantations; broken down into the grades and the elevations. Along with these samples they receive a printedcatalogue listing all the lots (volume) of tea available, which gives an indicative level of where the market price could move to atthe upcoming auctions. I was welcomed into the tasting room by Praveen a 23 year old who has spent his life in tea and who was officially trained in tasting and grading at one of the auction houses. Praveen tastes hundreds of teas on a weekly basis and is now using his skills in the business.
Samples From The Tea Brokers Ahead Of The Next Auction/ Me Tasting Some New Tea
Following this introduction to the buying process Imade my way across to the factory on the other side of the complex. After putting on a hairnet and an overcoat I was taken on a tour of the factory to understand the next stage of tea production.
I was guided into the warehousing facility where the bulk teas are received into the factory. Large sacks of different grades from the most recent auction are delivered on pallets in big 50-65kg paper sacks. It was interesting to learn about the huge effort that our manufacturers are making to supply more eco-friendly tea (highlighted by their project which I will discuss on a later blog). Ahead of tea bagging the single estate teas are blended in their black tea format with other estate teas from varying regions and elevations to produce the perfect blends, also this stage the tea can be blended with additional ingredients to produce flavoured blends such as Chai or Earl Grey.
Bulk Tea Fresh Into The Factory
I was then led into a room where retail boxes are constructed and ready to be filled. It wasfascinating to see the amount of tea that will be sold and drunk all over the world over the coming months. Thousands of boxes ready to be filled.
Boxes Being Constructed to Be Filled.
From here I then went into the factory to discover where the tea is produced into teabags. A whole mixture of machines producing all different styles of teabags; regular teabags, string and tag teabag, double chamber teabags, individually envelope wrapped , bio degradable fuso pyramids bags. It was fascinating to see that Charbrew’s bio degradable pyramid bags sat on a roll and fed through the machine for production... this is where the magic happens!!!
Tea is fed into the machines from above by a hopper which weighs out the perfect amount required for each teabag.
After the teabagging stage Charbrew’s products undergo a specialist packing operation(different to bulk tea). The recent additions to the Charbrew range include tins and paper canisters adding a more complex packing operation. I met with the team that manage this packing operation and briefly discussed the new products in the range. This was a very insightful day to understand the final process of the tea production before it is then loaded and shipped to us.
To round off the day, our manufacturers took me to Beach Wadiya a fantastic sea food restaurant located on the Colombo beachfront, serving the catch of the day and noted for its celebrity visitors including Princess Anne and Richard Branson.
By Adam Soliman