Best Method of
Tea is released to the market after going through a number of processes. It is a young shoot of a plant and due to its perishable nature, has to be packed using suitable material. Loose tea leaves which are dark brown-blackish in color are the final product of Ceylon black tea processing. It has a strong aroma and could be a bit stiff to the touch of the hand. A very subtle characteristic of tea which manufacturers have to be cautious about is, its ability to absorb water. Although tea is made by infusing tea leaves in hot water, if the raw tea leaves absorb water it will be unusable. Hence the packaging has to be done in a manner that tea stays dry, with its aroma intact.
As this is a commercial product, manufacturers have to consider the cost of the packaging material as well. The luxury market prefers pyramid tea bags and the traditional market is served with single or double chamber tea bags. Tea sacks of various material are used for loose Ceylon black tea. The outer packaging ranges from pouches, paper bags, tins and carton packs. Pouches can be made with aluminum or plastic.
Loose tea is locally available in polythene bags currently. However most tea manufacturers are now considering sustainable production of tea and have adopted environmental friendly materials for their packaging. The metal containers or tins are used for somewhat higher grades of tea, such as gunpowder, white tips and golden tips.
Loose tea can also be packaged in barrier bags. This is a multi-layered material which protects the delicate tea leaves from a number of factors such as harmful sunrays, water, pests and more. Barrier bags are suitable for international packaging as well.
Tea bags are the small pouches that contain loose leaf tea enough for a single serving. These tea bags are made of filter paper or foil. The significance of the tea bag material is that they should be conducive to hot water while not tearing or breaking, and letting the tea leaves escape.
When packaging loose tea into tea bags, be it Ceylon black tea or any other variety - the method used to facilitate the “dip” into the cup must be considered. Mylar tape is the material with which the thread is attached to the tag paper. Some producers used to do this via a stapler pin which posed problems because the metal pin was susceptible to rust. Mylar tape has solved that issue.
Most tea exporters are now turning towards sustainable and eco-friendly packaging which consist of 100% biodegradable materials. Most local tea manufacturers are dedicated to carbon neutral products and tea itself is going towards organic production.
Following the modern commercial practices, most Sri Lankan tea exporters have given up plastic and polythene wrappings a hundred percent. Some have introduced plant-based materials for tea packaging. Inner cartons are mostly made with corrugated materials which are reusable. Tea production companies have introduced methods for customers to return the corrugated material to be recycled.
Metal tins were used frequently in the past. In Iraq tea is referred as “Chai Istikan”; apparently the word “istikan” was formed when people asked for an “East tea can," a can or tin in which tea was sold in. In this day and age, metal packaging is limited but still makes a colourful and valuable gift to anyone.