On our first visit to Bah Freeman’s farm, he shared the story behind his tea plantation and what motivated him to keep going forward with his idea despite all the hardships he had to encounter because of his lack of knowledge and training in growing tea.
We felt we had to help him achieve his dreams for his tea farm.
So, we – Zizira’s team of explorers – returned to Bah Freeman’s tea farm with determination and skills needed to help fulfil the dream Bah Freeman had envisioned.
Everyone was excited about this second visit because we were sure it was history in the making.
But before getting into details about the visit, let’s take a peek into how we at Zizira went about gathering knowledge about tea.
Harvesting and Processing Both Tea and Knowledge
After a lot of field visits to different tea estates like the Urlong tea estate, Sharawn tea estate, and a few others, we started learning and understanding the business of tea.
It was while on these field trips that we learnt about the various tea varieties grown in Meghalaya and also the hardships that the tea growers face in this part of the region. Till now, we were oblivious about what it takes to get tea from Meghalaya into a competitive tea market.
As we learnt about tea and tea processing, we wanted to be of some use to the hardworking tea farmers who were looking for ways to produce good quality and unique tea from the hills of Meghalaya.
We understood that to be of use to tea farmers; we would need to get our hands ‘dirty’. We lacked experience in the whole process of tea cultivation. We delved into the processes involved in tea harvesting and green tea processing and came up with some solutions that the farmers could use.
We designed a few tools for processing green tea, and we took these with us to demonstrate a simple yet effective technique for processing green tea.
The idea of designing the tools was a result of our interaction with Kong Shariti, daughter of Bah John, owner of Sharawn Tea Estate Sohryngkham.
Our team’s next visit to Bah Freeman’s tea estate was with a new purpose and backed by knowledge and useful tools.
Babitdor and team started by harvesting tea along with Bah Freeman and his sons. Tea harvesting requires a lot of patience and care, Babitdor had briefed and trained us on this, and we carried ourselves accordingly. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience with the farmers!
Green Tea Processing
Try and think of the simplest technique for processing tea without the need for machines powered by electricity. Do you think it’s possible to get the right tea aroma without using high-tech machinery?
Yes! It is possible! And here’s how to do it.
Harvesting tea involves collecting two leaves with one bud from all the plants. Then comes the most crucial part of processing green tea. The tea leaves are boiled in a specific way and then dried for a specified period. The timing of each process is crucial here.
At the farm, the plucked tea leaves were transferred into a cylindrical mesh and dipped into hot boiling water. This process helps stop oxidation and obtain the right flavour of green tea. The tea leaves in the tubular mesh are boiled in water for 3-4 minutes.
The leaves were then moved to an elevated mesh and left there to dry for half an hour. As a result of this process, the tea leaves reach the desired quality.
That day on Bah Freeman’s farm the first step in tea processing took around 3.5 hours to complete, and the output was about 5 kilograms of tea.
Bah Freeman was very eager to learn more. He wanted to know what the next process was. He was pleased as he could finally glimpse a path that would lead him to realise his dream for his tea plantation.
Draining Excess Water from the Leaves
The next step for processing green tea involves withering the boiled leaves to the right level.
Withering was carried out at Zizira because the process could be completed with precision using the infrastructure created for withering.
The leaves from Bah Freeman’s farm were left to wither, at Zizira, for 6 hours.
Rolling the Green Tea
Once the tea leaves had withered to the desired level, they were removed to be hand rolled to form wrinkled strips to ensure that any extra juices inside the tea leaves ooze out which further enhances the taste of the tea. The rolling process took 2-3 hours.
The green tea was then dried using a low tech, wood-fire drier created by Zizira. The dryer maintains a temperature of 69 to 77 degrees. The first batch of tea leaves took one hour to dry.
The dried tea samples were sent to Bah Marba who has knowledge about tea. The tea leaves were pronounced to be of good quality!
This entire procedure, right from plucking the tea leaves to drying took the team two days to complete.
Comparison of the Green Tea with Other Teas
After the team was satisfied with the final output of the green tea, we compared it to three different green tea varieties.
Care was taken to ensure the same quantities of teas was made with a steeping time of 3 minutes.
We discovered that compared to the other three green tea varieties, Bah Freeman’s tea had a strong green tea aroma and tasted better.
The tea next in line had a light aroma with a slightly bitter taste.
The other two teas included for the tea test had burnt taste and smell.
The reason that Bah Freemans’s tea was superior to the other three is that it was freshly made and there was no storage time involved. It was also hand-rolled, unlike the other tea leaves that were machine rolled. The time taken from plantation to cup was just two days which made it far superior to the others.
Encouraging Farmers to Aim Higher
We at Zizira believe that small family farmers can aim higher and we are looking for ways we can help small farmers like Bah Freeman. We consider it a privilege to work with the few determined farm owners who are willing to put in their best and not allow someone to take advantage of them. We believe we can build their future and the future of those dependent on them.
Bah Freeman’s green tea is 100% natural and pesticide free. You can now get it from the Zizira store.
We would love to hear your feedback or any improvements we can make. We welcome your comments.