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The Supply Chain of Tea

Being an avid tea drinker, I have come to wonder how it's made, where it comes from and if I can make it myself. I decided to look into how I can get tea from the fields to my cup. As it turns out, those few grams of tea in my teabag have traveled quite the distance. Originally from Asia, tea wasn't introduced to the British tea-fanatics until the 17th Century. Making tea isn't a simple process - tea has to go through countless steps before it is ready to be shipped worldwide for everyone to enjoy. There are so many kinds, too. Green, black, oolong, and herbal are some of the most common, among others, and each one goes through a different process to be created. The main difference is the state to which the leaves and buds are oxidized and dried.

First, the tea plants are planted in fields, taking them about four years to grow. They are picked, then sent off to a factory. They begin by withering the leaves in a warm environment, then fermentation. After this step, the base teas are ready to either be sold as is or blended to make specialty mixes of tea, such as earl grey, which is a mix of black tea and bergamot oil. They usually get auctioned online or in auction houses to buyers, then they get exported to factories where they get blended and then sent to be packaged. The next step in the chain is the distribution process, where it will be shipped to stores that will sell it to us.

Tea fields come in all sizes, some are plantations and some are smallholders. When auctioning off the tea, these tea-growers are often controlled by large companies who have the power to bid for less and less, forcing some of the growers into poverty.

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