Rendezvous with Tea Factory, Ooty

Ooty or Udagamandalam is a famous hill station in India known for its natural beauty as well as its huge tea plantations. My last visit to Ooty brought me close to a tea factory. The making of an item which we use in our daily lives and which some can’t go without was an interesting rendezvous.

The tea factory is indeed a two-storied building turned into a veritable museum of tea. The entry ticket is for a minimal Rs 5. The entrance is from the second floor which is a huge hall with driers for the tea leaves. The entire hall is lined up with boards depicting the history of tea-making and how the art spread in India. The tea leaves are cut and spread over these driers from where they are sent to the first floor to be cut, twisted and curled into the tea we know today. In fact, the phrase “CTC Tea” is not a brand name. It actually means cut, twisted and curled form of tea.  Seen below is a chain of 5 CTC (cut, twist, curl) machines. The leaf is cut, twisted and curled when it passes through these toothed, high speed stainless steel rollers which run in opposite directions. 

Cut

Cut

Twist

Twist

Curl

Curl

The leaf that comes out of the roller is spread on the fermenting floor. The leaf is spread in the form of beds, usually of 4 ft width and 10 ft length, with a thickness of not more than 3 inches. During fermentation, the leaf reacts with oxygen in the air and changes color. The ‘dhool’ which are spread on the floor slowly turn copper red.  At a particular point when smelt, a fruity fragrance is identified which indicates the ‘dhool’ are ready for drying. 

CTC Tea

CTC Tea

Tea Fermentation

Tea Fermentation

The dried tea now passed through an elevator and falls into a machine called the Fibromat. As the name indicates, it helps remove the fibre in the tea. At the end of the Fibromat is a mesh that separates the dust from the leaf. 

Fibromat

Fibromat

There are two shifters, one for the dust and the other for the leaf. The leaf tea is granular in shape and graded into Pekoe, BOP, BP and BOPF according to their sizes.  Similarly, the dust tea is graded into Pekoe dust, Red dust, Super red dust and Super fine dust according to their sizes. 

Leaf and Dust separated

Leaf and Dust separated

The tea leaves are given flavors like cardamom and ginger as required and packaged in the tea factory. In fact, the normal tea leaves we use (black tea) is the basic CTC tea. If the tea leaves are extracted before the fermenting process, we get green tea. The dust is packaged into tea bags which are ever so popular these days.

The tea factory has a small shop on the first floor near the exit which promotes the teas it produces by selling them to the general public. The best promotional tactic followed, however, is the free tea that is distributed to all and sundry. The hot cup of delicious cardamom tea warms your hands and hearts in the cold weather of Ooty and elevates you to sublime heights. But only the first cup is free. For another one, you have to shell out two bucks from your pocket.

The making of tea as we know it in our daily life is an out of the world experience not easy to forget. The tea factory is a must-see when visiting Ooty.

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ICE-LOLLIES at home!!!

Come summer and ice-lollies are one of the best heat-busters around. They are sweet and they are cold and they are popular. Who wouldn’t want to stick out their tongue to lick off a dripping ice-lolly in the heat (or the cold for all you care). Kids love them. Adults love them. And you can have all the flavors you want. You can experiment and use ingredients from scrap or you can utilize ready-made products. Listed below are simple ways to make ice-lollies.

Ice-lolly number 1:

The best ice-lolly is made out of fruit. Fresh fruit adds its own distinct flavor. The best ones are those with a lot of juice and less of fibre content. You can utilize strawberries, melons or oranges. Extract the juice or simply mash the fruit to add fibre. Mix with yoghurt and add a little sugar. Pour into the container and freeze for a few hours.

Ice-lolly number 2:

If you do not have the patience or the time to make it from scrap, just bring in ready-made juice. Pour it into the containers and freeze. The quality of the juice will define the qualily of the lolly so make sure the juices are a favorite in the family.

Ice-lolly number 3:

So you are making a smoothie and some is left over. Worry not. You can utilize it for making ice-lollies. You guessed it right. Pour it into the containers and freeze. However, makes sure that the water content is enough in the lollies to hold ’em together.

Ice-lolly number 4:

This one is for the kids. Kids love ice-lollies and what better way there is to build up their anticipation than to involve them into the process of lolly-making? It will be a great bonding time for the kids and you and this does not take much time also. All you need is water, sugar, edible colors and flavors. Match, mix and freeze and enjoy the smiles on the kids’ faces.

Ice-lolly number 5:

You can pack in more delight in your lolly by adding real cut-pieces of fruits when preparing the lolly. If you are making a mango lolly, cut v small pieces of mango and drop them in the lolly as it starts freezing so they are spread throughout. This is a little tricky as you need to be sure of the density of the lolly so that the fruit pieces do not sink to the bottom of the container.

Ice-lolly number 6:

Another beautiful way of presenting a lolly is to make one with multiple colors. Prepare a pink strawberry smoothie and fill the container only half-way. Let it freeze completely. Now add a mango smoothie on top of it to get a bi-colored lolly. Won’t that get wonderful screams of delight from the kids?:-) Mix and match to suit your creativity.

 

Tip: The best way to prise out an ice-lolly is to have patience. Leave out the container at room temperature for 5 mins. The lollies will loosen considerably and will ease out completely in-tact.