Factory Tour of Singtom Tea Estate
This factory processes tea leaves from both Singtom and its sister tea estate Steinthal. It's nestled in the gardens of Singtom tea estate. It's a tedious uphill walk from the Singtom Resort
to the factory. Although the distance isn't much (about 300 yards or so), the winding road through the gardens is quite steep. Along the way you can see the managers' bungalows below. There are three Assistant Managers and one overall Estate Manager at Singtom/Steinthal. They all have their individual houses.
Naveen, one of the Asst. Managers who was also my guide mentioned that their bungalows were once workers' houses, which had been later taken over and converted.
In about 12-15 minutes you will reach the factory premises. A board on the factory building proudly displays 'Organic Tea Processing Factory'. And on top is written "Singtom Steinthal Tea Factory: Pioneer in Quality since 1852".
Singtom - Steinthal Tea Factory
The factory tour starts as you climb the stairway from outside and enter the large Withering room upstairs. The first processing step is Withering. This is where the freshly plucked tea leaves are first kept on long trays while fans underneath blow warm air to dry out the leaves. The entire room is filled with lovely aroma of fresh tea leaves. On the backside of the withering room, there is one more large withering room which too is operated during high production season.
Withering at Singtom
The next stage is Rolling. The tea leaves withered overnight are then poured through holes on the floor to pass them directly onto the Rolling machines placed below at the lower level. There is a narrow stairway at one end of the withering room which leads down to the rolling room below (watch your head as you go down the steps!). Once you come down the narrow stairs, you can see the huge rolling machines that roll the tea leaves and effectively rupture the leaves to bring out the flavor.
Rolling Machines at Singtom
Next is Fermentation which is often required to intensify the flavor. However note that no artificial flavor is ever added to Darjeeling tea. It's all natural. After fermentation the leaves go through a process of Drying with the help of drying machines.
Drying at Singtom
The final stages are Sorting to separate out the different grades of tea and followed by Packaging. Before the leaves go through machine sorting, ladies sitting at one corner manually remove unwanted particles from the tea leaves.
Ladies removing impurities
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