How the North African winds inspired Tea Drying

Over the last few months, I have been explaining how PMD Tea is produced. There is no doubt that growing the tea plants, picking the tea and its further production is as much an art as it is a production process. This week I would like to concentrate on one of the final parts of the process; Tea Drying. 
Today, tea drying relies on equipment that dates to the late 19th Century. Samuel Davidson, born in Ballymechan, near Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland (as it is today) was an engineer with a background in flour milling. He worked in India and became a manager on an Assam estate. He realised that the methods they were employing to dry the tea were inadequate, and so applied his engineering brain to the problem. In 1869 he took out a patent on his first tea dryer, the Sirocco No1.

Built before the partition of Ireland

This is where the North African connection comes in. He took inspiration from the dry arid heat that is associated with the winds of North Africa and started the very successful Irish engineering company Sirocco. He returned to Ireland in 1881 and created the Sirocco company who manufactured and exported equipment for cooling, drying, heating, ventilation, and dust collecting. 

When I visit many of the old estates, it is still very common to find the Sirocco dryer being used today and the manufacturing stamp on the side of the machine reads "Belfast Ireland".  These machines are getting on for over 100 years old and have been carefully cared for over the years.

Like most aspects of the art of tea making, operating the Sirocco dryers requires a high level of skill and those skills have been passed down from generation to generation.  If you get the temperature wrong a batch of tea can be ruined. Therefore, it requires careful judgement and experience to get the drying conditions just right to perfect the ideal moisture content and deliver the optimum flavour profile of the tea. 

If you would like to find out more about Samuel Davidson and his life and work, then please click

Raja, Moray Estate's skilled dryer operator 

Happy Sipping: Dananjaya