Tea is sold in a variety of ways. Tea may be sold at auction in countries of origin.
There are international auction centres in Mombasa in Kenya, Colombo in Sri Lanka and
Limbe in Malawi. India has auction centres in the north and south. Indonesia sells tea in
Jakarta. China sells her tea by numbered standards at commodity fairs at Guangzhou. Tea
prices are governed by quality, supply and demand. Tea brokers act as intermediaries and
taste, value and bid on their clients behalf. Tea may also be sold from the tea
garden by private sale or at off-shore auction whilst on route to its destination.
After its arrival in Britain, the tea is taken to the various packaging companies for
blending and packing.
Approximately 90% of the tea drunk in Britain is known as the popular brand leading
blends. These are a blend of teas which contain up to 35 different teas and remain
constant in quality, character and flavour, despite some teas being seasonal or in short
supply due to adverse weather conditions in one or other of the growing regions. Each
popular blend has its own recipe and that recipe is the companys trade secret. All
the national popular brand leading blends are blended to cope with the varying types of
water in Britain be they soft, hard or middle of the road.
It is the job of the tea blender - a tea taster of many years standing - to ensure that
his company blend meets all the criteria. To do this, the blenders and buyers - all tea
tasters - will taste the teas brought at auction on arrival at the tea packaging factory,
to reassess that they have not been contaminated or damaged whilst in the warehouses
awaiting the auction.
During the course of a day, a blender can taste between 200-1000 teas, adjusting his
recipe to ensure that the companys brand remains constant. His findings are fed into
a computer and the requisite numbers of sacks and chests of the different teas are taken
from the company storeroom, opened and conveyed into a large blending drum. This rotates,
mixing all the teas together. When the blending is complete, the blend is ready for
packaging into packets or tea bags.
For loose leaf packets, the blended tea is put into a hopper which feeds a machine that
carefully measures and dispenses the right amount of tea into the packet, filling it and
sealing it, and weighing it as a final check. This is all done automatically in seconds.
Tea bag tea is fed into specially designed machines which will fill thousands of
teabags, be they round, square or pyramid shaped, each minute. Each bag usually contains
at least 2.27gms of tea and is hermetically sealed, then packed into cartons.
Speciality teas, that is a blend of teas which take their name from a growing area,
time of day or persons name, are blended in just the same way, but there are not so
many teas in any one blend of speciality tea as there are in a popular blend.
The tea packaging companies sell their tea to the supermarkets, and other retailers
using a national accounts system, through wholesalers and even by a team of salesmen
calling on corner shops.
Your tea reaches the supermarket or shop shelf between 20 to 30 weeks after it has been
plucked on the estate or small holding.
source: The Tea Council