Documentary series. Gregg Wallace receives some tea leaves from Kenya and follows them through the factory that produces one quarter of all the tea drunk in Britain.
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-It's our national drink.
-In the next 24 hours,
we'll consume an astonishing 165 million cups of tea.
Which means most of us get through three a day.
Tonight, we'll trace the journey your tea goes on, over 4,000 miles,
..to tea bag.
300 people work in this factory.
It runs 24 hours a day, five days a week,
to keep up with our insatiable demand.
'I'm Gregg Wallace.'
I feel a bit nervous.
That's a tonne of tea above my head.
'And, in just one day,
'I'll be making enough of these little fellas...'
That's like making ravioli.
'..for nearly everyone in Scotland and Northern Ireland
'to enjoy a cuppa.'
'I'm Cherry Healey...'
..and I'm discovering that half the tea we drink
comes from someone you would never expect.
That would make a tea bag.
'I'll also master the art...
Surely the tea will be ruined?
'..of making the very best tea bag brew.'
It is, without doubt, the perfect cup of tea.
And historian Ruth Goodman will reveal
how tea kept our troops going in wartime.
-Does the trick, doesn't it?
-That's a good cup of tea.
-It's a good cup of Rosie Lee.
Over the next 24 hours,
40 million tea bags will fly out of this factory.
And we'll show you just what it takes to produce them.
Welcome to Inside The Factory.
This is the huge Typhoo tea factory on the Wirral, near Liverpool.
As well as their own brands, they make tea bags for supermarkets.
Altogether, they're responsible for about a quarter of all the tea
we drink in the UK.
Today, we are concentrating on the nation's favourite
and, more importantly, my favourite -
good old-fashioned builder's.
This 28,500-square-metre factory has been creating our classic cuppa
for 39 years.
Here, I'll be transforming 20 tonnes of tea leaves
into almost seven million tea bags.
Up to five lorries arrive here every morning,
packed to the brim with tea leaves from around the world.
Today, coming into the unloading bay is a delivery for me.
Meeting it is blending manager Dave Langton.
Dave. I'm Gregg.
-Nice to meet you, Gregg.
-Why have you got these great big things?
Well, as you see, Gregg, on the container itself,
it's actually got a seal on it which we always check
before the vehicle's arriving
to make sure the container hasn't been interfered with.
-Come on, then, let's have it off.
-OK. Do you want to do that?
-Where do you do it?
-At the bottom.
-For crying out loud!
-There we go.
The countdown from sacks of leaves to my tea bags begins.
Is that dried already?
-Dried tea leaves?
-That's dried tea leaves, yes.
There's 20 pallets on that with roughly 24.5 tonne.
24.5 tonnes of tea?
-That's an astounding amount of tea.
Do you know what? I'm just thinking,
cos I've been through quite a few factories.
This is going to make for a pretty quick show because all we've got
to do now is open this up now and stick it into bags, right?
No. There's a lot more process involved than that, Gregg.
It'll take an hour to get these 20 pallets of dried leaves
off the lorry and into the factory.
While these guys unload,
Cherry's been to see where almost half the tea
they use here comes from.
You're probably expecting me to be in India or China
because that's where tea is grown, right?
Well, no, I'm in Kenya.
I'm 30 miles south of the equator, where Kenya's warm, humid climate
is perfect for growing tea all year round.
It has more than 800 square miles of plantations,
and is the world's biggest black tea exporter.
The majority of its crop is grown by half-a-million small-scale farmers.
-Hi, Mr Mwangi.
'Farm manager Simon Mwangi has got me on his picking team today.'
You have a stick to maintain the plucking level.
So anything above the stick I can pluck?
Anything else cannot produce good tea.
-So, only pick...?
-Two leaves and a bud.
Two leaves and a bud. So that's the trick?
Two leaves and a bud.
Yeah, you pluck like that.
-Is that right?
-Yeah, that's right.
-That's the key to a good cuppa?
I'll give it a go.
'The tea bush is a variety of the camellia family of plants,
'more commonly seen as a flowering shrub in our gardens.'
Oh, my God, she's so fast. You're so fast!
'The top two leaves are known as the tips.'
God, how can you even see them?
'They're the youngest, tenderest leaves, and give the best flavour.'
How are you so fast?!
'I'm not sure I've got the technique quite right.'
-Is that too long?
-This can be...
Taken down. So, they really just want the leaves?
-Once you've picked the tea, how long does it take to grow back?
About two weeks.
Two weeks? That's so fast.
And do you like tea?
So, at the end of the day, do you have a nice cup of tea?
-Oh, do you?
That would make a tea bag.
Isn't that beautiful?
These 12g of fresh green leaves will shrink down
to just under 3g of finished black tea.
I feel like my pile is very puny compared to everyone else's!
Look at Aaron's!
But you have tried.
Everyone loves a trier.
-And I'm definitely trying.
We're taking my leaves to the processing plant
less than a mile away.
It was built in 1965, and is now a cooperative,
working with more than 6,500 smallholding farmers.
Our fresh, delicate crop needs preserving quickly,
to lock in its flavour, before it's shipped overseas.
'The process starts in the withering room.'
'Joseph Arethee is the factory manager.'
Now what do we do?
-We pour the tea...
-..from the bag.
-Then we do the spreading. We spread it.
Why do you do it like that?
So we want to spread and then air it.
So to cool it?
-To cool it.
The leaves sit here for 12 hours
to let around 30% of their moisture content evaporate into the air.
Those destined for loose-leaf tea are rolled just enough
to make them twist, which produces a lighter taste.
The leaves for tea bags go through a cut, tear and curl process,
which helps them infuse and brew more quickly.
They're turned into a fine, wet mush.
Next, this green paste must be aerated for 90 minutes.
The oxygen reacts with the enzymes of the leaves,
changing their colour.
Our damp tea needs one more crucial transformation.
The mega-drier reduces the moisture level in the leaves to just 3%.
Now it's dry, the tea is sieved and sorted by particle size,
ready for packing.
Just in that one pallet is 1,360kg of tea.
Enough for almost half a million cups!
It's taken around 18 hours to get my leaves from the field
and onto this lorry.
Now, it's heading off on a long and complex journey to the UK.
First, it's driven for ten hours to the port of Mombasa.
From there, a container ship carries it on a four-week voyage,
calling at ports along the route,
through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean,
around the European coast, and into the Port of Liverpool.
Once it hits dry land, it's just a 20-minute hop to the factory.
Here, they buy leaves from seven countries around the world.
And this morning's delivery from Kenya
came from five different plantations.
Righto, Dave, we've got it unloaded. Now what?
We're going to take samples to ensure what's actually arrived
on site is what we've actually paid for.
-Would you like to take this sample for me?
-What have I got to do?
-OK, if you'd like to cut a V into the bag itself.
What, either side of the elephant?
-And into your hand.
There you go.
Oh, I see, you cut the V because, as soon as you push the V back in,
-it stops coming out.
-It stops coming out.
That's something we've learned, that's something we've learned.
Yeah. I can't believe that works!
'Now my delivery needs testing to make sure it's up to standard.'
-What is this?
-This is our trolley to transport our samples
-through to the tasting department.
-Is that as hi-tech as it gets?
-That is, I'm afraid.
-How long have you had this trolley?
That's probably older than me, that trolley, Gregg.
All right, listen, cheers, mate.
Just around the corner
is the factory's tasting and blending department.
The four experts here taste every consignment of tea
that arrives at the factory.
Alan Hargreaves is head of buying and blending,
and has been tasting tea for 30 years.
I've got samples.
-Come on, then, get the kettle on.
OK, we've got the kettle on there.
So, first of all, we've got to weigh this up.
So we're weighing roughly 2.8g of tea.
-Which weighs the same as an old shilling.
And, if you look at what we've got in there, it's an old shilling.
You know, this is a multi-million-pound, world industry,
I've used a little shopping trolley to bring it here,
you've put an old-fashioned kettle on,
and now you're weighing it out with a manual scale
-with a shilling in it.
-It's a very traditional trade.
This is brilliant.
Just be careful cos it is a little bit hot.
I want you to take a slurp.
Draw in air to the back of the palate,
swill it around, and then spit it out.
-Slurp it and spit it?
My mum spent almost 20 years telling me not to.
-Too good to spit out, mate, to be honest.
ALAN CHUCKLES That is actually nice.
If it's OK, can we just stick it in bags and send it out?
No, no, no, we can't do that.
This is just the first point of call of making the blend.
So, what I have here...
Hang on, hang on. Blend?
So every blend basically is roughly 20 different tea estates.
So the tea in my tea bag - that's a blend of different tea leaves?
'The flavour of black tea varies from country to country,
'even from field to field.'
One thing you've got to remember, it's a vegetation crop,
we have different climatic conditions,
we have different processes.
-In different weather and different soil?
-It's like making wine.
-But you're blending different teas
from all over the world every single time...
-..to make the flavour that you need?
-That's always the same?
I had absolutely no idea.
Alan's team created the master blend in 1978,
but the exact recipe changes every day,
depending on the available mix of leaves.
It's the only way to make sure the bags made this week
taste exactly like the ones from last week.
Today, the Kenyan leaves I brought in
are the crucial final ingredient.
-So you're happy with this now.
All right, so what do we do now?
Yes. So I've got the recipe here, which is top secret.
This one is for 20 tonnes.
I'll pass that to you.
You can take that into the factory and we can start blending it.
And this is secret, is it?
Am I allowed to look at it?
You can have a peep.
It doesn't mean a lot to me, to be honest.
So this one here is from Kenya.
It's this key element which was the final piece of the jigsaw.
I learnt a lot there.
-I found that fascinating. Thank you.
All the work that Alan and his team do
ensures that your tea tastes exactly the same every single day.
But, as Ruth Goodman's been discovering,
back in the Victorian era,
you couldn't always trust what was in your brew.
'In the early 19th century, if you wanted to buy tea...'
'..you went to the grocer's and asked for it by weight.'
But there was a problem -
you had absolutely no idea whether what you were buying
was, in fact, pure tea.
Tea adulteration was rampant.
Historian Jane Pettigrew has been investigating the treacheries
of the early tea trade.
Tea was so expensive in those days.
The average price of a pound of tea in round about 1800
was between 18 shillings and 20 shillings.
That would be around £30 in today's money.
The high cost meant it was tempting for fraudsters to fake it.
Unscrupulous traders would actually make false tea
by picking leaves from other bushes and trees,
and they would take those leaves and they would be boiled up
in ferrous sulphate and sheep's dung!
The chemical ferrous sulphate, along with the sheep's dung, added colour.
And then that would be mixed with real tea
that had already been brewed.
-Second-hand teas, yes.
And then, coloured in Prussian blue to give them that blue-green tinge.
So, people were drinking all sorts of things
that they really shouldn't have been.
I would not want to be drinking something
-that's been steeped in sheep's dung.
I mean, you just don't know, do you?
And all these dangerous chemicals
that would certainly not be allowed today.
At least eight factories in London in the 1840s
existed for the sole purpose of drying used tea leaves
and reselling them to fraudulent dealers.
But one man was to change all this,
and allow us to trust our tea.
He was honest John Horniman,
a Quaker tea merchant whose business integrity
helped make him a large fortune.
He invented a tea packaging machine and, according to Fiona Kerlogue,
curator of the Horniman Museum, that was the game-changer.
John Horniman was the first person to sell tea in sealed packages
of guaranteed weight and purity.
Unlike most tea being produced at the time, Horniman's was pure,
and he made the most of this unique selling point in his advertising.
This is a poster from the 1850s.
-And it says,
"Tea with the import mark of your firm is as described,
"perfectly pure and free from all artificial colouring, and is,
"in every respect, wholesome and most desirable for general use."
His strategy was so successful that, by 1891,
he was said to have the largest tea company in the world.
Horniman's successful package branding strategy
quickly attracted a whole host of rivals.
And, in 1918, one of the new brands, Lyons Tea, bought Horniman's.
Eventually, the name disappeared from the UK,
although it still remains a market leader in Spain!
And I think it's rather a shame that honest John Horniman
doesn't get a bit more credit for this whole phenomenon,
for helping us enjoy a cuppa,
safe in the knowledge that it really is nothing but pure tea.
At the factory, I'm in the tea storage area,
and ready for the next step on my epic tea bag journey.
It's over three hours since my Kenyan shipment arrived.
Head blender Alan has approved my leaves
and given me my ingredient list, so I can start making my blend.
So far, my recipe has only be made in a sample size.
Now we're scaling it up to 20 tonnes of tea bags
using 320 sacks of leaves.
Each pallet holds a separate element of the blend.
Keeping track of it all is operations manager Danny McGrail.
Here he is. How are you, mate?
-Are you all right, mate?
-You all right?
What is that?
That is Robbie the Robot.
And he's our robot who picks up all our tea here on site for us.
OK, so, we're going to start Robbie off.
It's the green button and the black button there.
We need to press and twist at the same time.
So press the green button with your thumb.
Twist the black button, hit the green one?
My tea blend recipe uses leaves grown in seven regions
across five different countries.
How can he see where the bags are?
There's a camera up on the top, so he's taken a photo of it,
a picture of it, every one, so he knows where they are.
But how does he know which pallets to take them from?
So we've pre-programmed it before we've started the machine off,
so Robbie knows now he's got to pick two bags
off each of the 16 pallets.
-We want nearly 20 tonnes of tea.
Why is he only taking two bags at a time?
Cos we blend it in two-tonne sections.
We couldn't fit all 20 in one blending drum, you see, Gregg.
-So we're going to get 20 tonnes...
-..but in ten batches of two?
Ten batches of two tonne.
The sacks are tipped into something
that looks surprisingly like my tumble dryer.
So what we're trying to do in this part is actually empty the sack.
So it's being ripped open before it gets into there?
Yeah, there's a giant saw in front of it that cuts the sack of tea,
all the tea spills out through the giant tumbler,
and then the sack's going to work its way along,
get pushed out the side, and be compacted.
It's almost hypnotic.
And it's a lovely smell as well.
My fragrant tea leaves fall onto a conveyor belt
and are then sent back up a pipe
before dropping down into an oversized sieve.
This is just an enormous machine basically doing that.
I love the fact that it comes down and doesn't get any further,
and then shrinks back up.
-So all the tea is falling through the holes?
Everything else will just vibrate all the way down to the bottom,
and that'll go out into our waste stream.
As well as, obviously, bits of bag,
anything else get stuck in there?
So there's actually little bits of metal that you can actually see
in there that have come through in the tea as well.
That was in the sack of tea?
Yes, that will come through.
All the way from Africa?
-Not what you'd expect to find in your tea bag.
You'd be SCREWED. DANNY CHUCKLES
It will take two hours to sieve my 20 tonnes of leaves.
Next, a conveyor takes them into the blending area,
where my seven different teas will be mixed together.
Where does it come in?
It's coming in above our heads there, Gregg, on a belt.
The tea is then going to slide down and fall into our drums.
-Goes in both sides?
The drum will rotate one way when it's filling, for four minutes.
It'll then blend it for four minutes.
'It's like a giant food mixer, and a gently efficient way
'to spread my different leaves evenly through the batch.'
Once it's finished blending it,
it's going to rotate the opposite way,
and that empties the system, and then that sends it upstairs for us.
I don't really understand how it's getting back upstairs.
So on these two side stanchions there, Gregg,
is what we call a bucket elevator,
and in there is hundreds of stainless steel scoops.
When the drum is emptying,
it dispenses into each one of these stainless steel buckets
and it starts to go up, gets itself to the top,
and when it is at its highest point,
it will drop vertical, drop the tea onto a belt.
Why does it go back up? That's a bad design.
-It is a bad design.
-Wouldn't it be easier to fall through the floor?
Our factory actually wasn't designed to make tea bags originally.
-It was actually a chocolate factory.
-Is that right?
You were never meant to make tea in the first place?
We weren't meant to make tea bags, so we've had to adapt our factory,
and to design a system that actually does it the wrong way round -
we have to actually take ours upstairs, across,
-and then bring it back downstairs.
That's the first two tonnes of my classic blend mixed.
But back in Kenya, Cherry's finding out what gives tea its great taste
in the first place.
If you look at where tea comes from,
there's nothing to indicate that it would make a good brew.
Looks a bit like a privet hedge.
But if you scrutinise the chemistry of a tea leaf,
it's astonishingly complex.
Around 30% of every tea leaf is made of a group of chemicals
They contribute to the tea's flavour.
Polyphenols are produced by the plant as a defence against insects.
They really don't like the taste of them.
But we do.
And in the tea processing plant,
these polyphenols can be manipulated
to dramatically alter the appearance,
aroma and flavour of your drinks.
Factory manager Joseph Arethee fills me in.
So what are we making now?
We are making green tea.
Green tea. This looks exactly like all the other tea we've seen.
Why is this green tea?
It is exactly like the other tea we have seen.
It is the same tea leaves.
So I thought green tea, white tea and black tea
all came from different plants.
No, no. It is the same tea plant.
The only difference between all of those types of tea
is the way you process the leaf
after you get it from the mother plant.
For green tea, they steam the fresh leaves at 100 degrees.
This stops the enzymes reacting with the oxygen,
so the leaves stay green instead of turning brown
and keep more of those tasty polyphenols.
Is it tea time?
-It is tea time.
-Welcome, welcome, welcome.
Taster Peter Kamanga is showing me how the different treatment
affects the flavour. First, green tea.
-What does that taste remind you of?
-It tastes green.
-We call that character grassy.
-Grassy. It's very greenish.
Next, black tea.
The oxidisation which changes the colour of the leaves
also changes the make-up of the polyphenols,
creating a deeper, maltier flavour.
And Peter has their strongest grade for me to try.
That's a lovely cup.
-Is that lovely?
-It's so gutty.
-It just bites your cheeks.
-OK, it's gutty and bitey.
I'm going to have... I'm going to have slightly less.
It is quite sharp, yeah?
-Wow, that is bitey.
-It is very strong tea.
I mean, that would wake you up in the morning, wouldn't it?
The third type I'm trying - white tea - isn't oxidised,
and is the least processed of all.
-Oh, that's amazing.
-We call it floral, floral character.
It's very floral, very delicate.
Here we have only picked the bud.
The bud. So white tea is just that little magic leaf.
It feels like velvet.
-Yes, it does.
The young shoots contain the highest number of polyphenols,
and make white tea the most expensive.
So even though I've been drinking
and loving all different types of tea
for over two decades,
I never realised that they all came from the same incredible leaf.
The first batch of my leaves has finished mixing,
and been scooped upstairs to the filling station...
..where, five and a quarter hours after my Kenyan tea arrived,
I can now pour my blend into each of these
massive one-tonne storage bags.
A tonne of tea is going to
-come shooting out of there in a minute, right?
And if you want to press that green button,
then the tea will start to dispense into the bag for us.
It takes just four minutes to load a bag,
and they fill two at a time.
That is the biggest tea bag I have ever seen.
-We have to take a sample of it to your mate, Alan,
-in tea tasting.
-I like him.
A little bald bloke with glasses. Very attractive.
Alan has to make sure the blend I've made is exactly right.
Can I ask you - how many tea bags in this tonne of tea?
You're looking at around 330,000 tea bags.
Why don't we just add the milk and sugar now?
HE CHUCKLES That is a packet of tea.
I'm quite proud of that, you know? What do I do, take it down?
No, we go this way and we've got a little air chute,
we'll put it in there and we'll fire that down to him
-and it'll end up in our tea tasting lounge.
What do I do?
So basically we need to put our sample into the container.
Oh, my word.
Place that in there.
Seal back down.
Red button. Press that.
-And that will go shooting off to Alan?
PNEUMATIC TUBES WHOOSH
All this tea production is making me thirsty.
Now, you've heard people say, "I'm dying for a cup of tea."
Well, during World War II, people really did die for a cup of tea.
Ruth has been investigating.
When the Second World War was declared in 1939,
the Government was well aware of just how important tea would be
to the morale of the nation.
So they took control of all the factory stocks and supplies,
and, like the Crown Jewels,
they moved their tea treasure out of London to protect it from bombs.
So, when tea was rationed in 1940,
there was about enough tea for each person to have three cups a day,
so long as you followed the Ministry of Food advice
that it would be no more than,
"One spoonful per person and none for the pot."
But the military on active service got a more generous ration.
For them, the bigger problem was how to brew it up.
'I've come to Bovington Tank Museum...'
'..to meet curator, David Willey.'
This is a Second World War British Churchill tank.
-Do you want to have a look inside?
-Yeah, go on.
'David is showing me how difficult it was
'to make tea on the front line.'
That's small, isn't it?
Yeah, pretty compact.
How many people would be in there, then?
You've got a crew of five.
-Three just in this turret, two down in the front.
Oh, my goodness, you're packed in like sardines.
The last thing you want to do in a space like that
is to have a naked flame.
You've got ammunition, you've got petrol in there,
so you always had to come out to make cups of tea.
Making tea outside with limited resources required some invention.
This is what we call a Benghazi boiler,
and it's basically just a pan full of sand,
pour some petrol on, set it on fire,
and you can see we've got a good blaze going.
I can really see why you wouldn't be doing this inside a tank!
No. And the minute any vehicle stops anywhere,
somebody's starting that Benghazi boiler going,
so we can get a brew on the go.
And in the letters and the diaries, guys are actually saying,
you know, "Our morale went up and down
-"in proportion to the amount of tea we actually got."
-You want to give it a go?
-I'll give it a go.
Oh, look at that. Lovely.
All them lovely tea leaves.
That's got a bit of a kick.
The British thirst for a cuppa could be a risky manoeuvre.
On June 13th, 1944, an armoured squadron was destroyed
outside the French town of Villers-Bocage.
It's believed they'd stopped for a tea break.
Incidents like these were tragically common.
So the British came up with an invention
that meant soldiers could brew up in safety.
There's quite a sight coming towards you.
That is a threatening thing you've got there, mate.
This is a Challenger 1 tank.
This saw service in the 1980s.
This tank and every tank that Britain made
after the Second World War had one of these in it.
It's something called a boiling vessel,
so nowadays the crews can actually have a hot drink safe and protected.
That's where you plug it in, this is your tap which turns round,
that's where your water comes out.
And in the top here, and that's where the boiling is...
Oh, right. Oh, I see. So that's your actual vessel.
-And that's where it's heated.
-No flames, all contained,
keep our chaps safe inside.
And it's an amazingly popular bit of kit.
Former tank commander Tony Stirling
knows all about the importance of tea in tanks.
Now, you've used this for real, haven't you?
Absolutely, yeah. Used it in the first Gulf War.
And is it still part of the British Army rations?
Absolutely. Here I've got a modern version
of the British Army ration pack.
And if we open up inside, you can see...
-There they are.
-I'll make a cup of tea, if that's OK.
-All we do is dispense the water through the tap.
-Does the trick, doesn't it?
It must make a huge difference,
just having that whenever you've got a bit of waiting time.
Letters from home and hot food and tea, Ruth.
It's what keeps the guys going.
-That's a good cup of tea.
-It's a good cup of Rosie Lee.
The British military gets through
around 216 million cups of tea a year.
And thanks to the boiling vessel,
brewing up on the job is now a whole lot safer.
PNEUMATIC TUBES WHOOSH
'At the factory, my precious blended tea sample
'easily beats me to the tasting room.'
-I was trying to get here before the samples.
-No, I'm afraid not.
'Now it's up to head blender Alan to decide if my mixture
'from seven plantations matches their standard blend,
'and if it's good enough to turn into tea bags.'
So we've got the standard,
and then we've got the blend which you've just done now.
You need to make sure it's exactly the same.
Exactly the same. The proof will be in the pudding,
so we'll taste this,
and then let's see if you can notice any differences.
You're not going to start slurping and spitting
all over the place again, are you?
-That's exactly what we're going to do.
-That's the standard, right?
-It is, yes.
And then we've got the blend which you've just done now.
And the difference is...?
Nobody would notice the difference.
-Well, there isn't a difference, is there?
-No, there isn't.
-We're posher in my house. Do you know why?
We've got handles.
-You drank it.
You drank it! You didn't spit it out.
-Mate, thank you very much.
-Yeah, you're welcome.
With Alan's gold slurp of approval,
5½ hours after my leaf delivery,
I can now turn my 20 tonnes of tea into tea bags.
In the blended tea storage area,
operations manager Danny is waiting to hear my results.
-We're in business.
So what do we do with it now?
So basically what we need to do
is now we need to get it to our tea bag-making machines.
So what I need you to do, Gregg, is I want you to untie that.
The tea will then flow through the neck
-and start to flow through the system.
-I feel a bit nervous.
That's a tonne of tea above my head.
-There she goes.
That's ridiculously comforting. DANNY LAUGHS
That'd send you off to sleep.
The leaves are being sucked by a powerful vacuum
through a complex system of pipes,
350 metres, to the room below.
-It's going to take an hour to unload?
We don't have to stand here and watch it, do we?
-No, we don't.
-Do you fancy a cup of...?
A cup of Rosie?
I was going to say coffee, to be honest...
I have my builder's blend,
but of course there's another crucial element
I need for my tea bags -
Cherry's been to find out how it's made.
The quiet beauty of the Scottish Borders
might not be the first place you'd associate with tea bags.
But you'd be wrong,
because this factory, astonishingly,
produces one in ten of the world's tea bags.
There's been a paper mill here in Chirnside for 175 years.
But the first thing I can see are stacks of something
more like felt fabric.
-Lovely to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you. Pleasure.
Plant manager Stuart Nixon explains what this is.
The most important material is the abaca, or Manila hemp.
-This is what my tea bag is made of?
-It is indeed, yeah.
What looks like the inside of my mattress.
-A little bit like that, yeah.
-But this is in fact hemp.
-What is hemp?
-Hemp is a natural fibre,
and it's related to the banana plant.
It doesn't produce banana fruit.
This abaca hemp is imported from the Philippines,
where it's been grown for centuries to provide fibre for rope,
and, more recently, paper.
Why do you use this material? Why is it good for tea bags?
The key thing about this is that the fibre length is very, very long.
When we form it into a sheet of paper,
we can form a very lightweight sheet that's very strong,
but also very porous.
And if you think about the purpose of a tea bag,
you want to keep the tea inside the tea bag,
but you want to let the tea infuse into the cup.
And the abaca is the key material to allow that to happen.
I had no idea that a tea bag was so constructed.
It's an engineered product, yes.
'The abaca is loaded up onto a conveyor belt,
'that takes it along into a giant mixer...'
'..where it's broken down with water,
'which turns it into a sludge.'
It looks like a giant vat of porridge.
-It does, yes.
-It looks weirdly delicious.
Why are you blending it all together?
You can see that the fibres are all stuck together, matted together.
You want to make those fibres individual.
You're mixing it with water to separate it
so that they can be laid flat?
-It is an odd process,
because you have this flat sheet and you mash it up with water
so you can then make it into another flat sheet.
But much thinner.
The next ingredient is a specialist plastic.
This is the heat seal fibre that we use,
so that the tea bag producer can seal the tea bag together,
so that the tea stays inside the tea bag.
This is almost like cotton wool,
-but it's in fact a plastic.
How much of my tea bag is made up of this plastic substance?
About 25%, a quarter.
About a quarter.
This plastic is mixed in with the abaca hemp.
And there's one more element to a tea bag - wood pulp,
which forms an outer insulating layer,
to prevent the paper dissolving in your mug.
Wood pulp sheets are broken down by thousands of litres of water.
The whole process relies on water heavily,
and water is used as the medium,
the fluid that pumps the fibre around the plant.
'The wood pulp and the abaca plastic mix...'
There it goes.
'..are piped separately into the 40-metre-long
'giant papermaking machine.'
First, the abaca and plastic mix is poured onto a mesh conveyor belt.
The water drains off, leaving the fibres behind.
The wood pulp is poured on top and its excess water
drains through the bottom layer, sealing them together.
After drying at 100 degrees,
the two layers are stretched into a single sheet,
just a tenth of a millimetre thick.
The 2.2-metre-wide sheet of paper whizzes out of the machine
at up to 300 metres a minute.
Then it's wound onto a roll,
which is quite rightly called a jumbo.
It's a gigantic loo roll!
-That is enormous.
So that's the finished paper, that is tea bag paper.
That is tea bag paper.
How many metres will that be when it's finished?
By the time it's finished it'll be about 60km, 60,000 metres.
And how many of those do you make a day?
Six or eight.
Surely we cannot drink that much tea?
Each finished one of these is about 15 million tea bags.
-It's a big piece of paper.
-It's a big roll of paper.
The three-tonne jumbo roll
is sliced into hundreds of more manageable sizes,
and then loaded up, ready for our tea factory.
Inside this lorry is enough paper for nearly 50 million tea bags.
That should keep Gregg busy for a while.
I need about 118km of paper for my bags.
And it's already arrived at one of the production lines.
My tea leaves were delivered six hours ago.
Now, at last, I'm about to turn them into tea bags.
Engineer Bob Jones is standing by.
Right, there's Cherry's paper.
-So my tea, my blend, is going down from there?
-How do we make that into a tea bag?
-Right, Cherry's reel comes around.
If you look down there, Gregg, that slitter knife then cuts it in half.
One half runs up and over the top,
the other half comes down the bottom.
As it comes through there, it gets a dose of tea on it.
What size or weight is going into each tea bag?
Each little dose of tea is about 3g.
One side of the paper has a wood pulp on,
and one side has a plastic laminate,
so that when we split it and turn one over,
we're sandwiching the tea between the two papers.
The two papers come together, are compressed with heat,
that heats the plastic laminate and seals them together.
If the heat is making it sticky and that's sticking it together,
why doesn't it come unstuck when I pour boiling water on it?
The plastic is heated at a greater temperature than your boiling water
when it sticks together.
'The plastic will only melt at 160 Celsius.'
This thing is going really fast.
Is there any way of slowing it down?
Yes, of course.
That's like making ravioli.
Yeah, little small pockets with something nice in the middle.
Should we get it going again?
If we don't restart the machine, the nation might run out of tea.
What a catastrophe.
This machine stamps out 1,500 tea bags a minute, 24 hours a day,
five days a week.
The excess paper is blown through this slinky and out to recycling...
..while my stacks of bags go into the foiling machine,
and come out in sachets of 40.
You've turned them into astronauts.
-There we go.
-Sealed in a space blanket. All right.
It's all well and good the guys here working hard to produce
the perfect tea bag, with the perfect blend of leaves inside,
but how do you brew the perfect cup of tea?
Cherry has been getting the scientific lowdown.
I've always been told that there is a proper way to make a cup of tea,
and it looks like this -
loose-leaf tea, a porcelain teapot,
a tea strainer and some patience.
But 96% of us make a brew using a tea bag.
So what are the golden rules when making a cuppa
using a mug and a bag?
An expert in the science of tea making,
Dr Stuart Farrimond has three top tips.
We're starting with the takeaway tea we're all familiar with,
brewed in a Styrofoam cup.
Cherry, good to see you.
Nice to see you, Doctor Stu.
First off, I want you to make a cup of tea with a tea bag,
-as you would do normally.
Boil some water.
Tea bag in.
La, la, la, la.
That looks good to me.
Leaves a lot to be desired, Cherry.
How could you say that?!
What is wrong with this cup of tea?
You're using a Styrofoam cup,
which is a particularly bad way of making tea.
Styrofoam absorbs flavour molecules,
reducing the tastiness of the tea.
So Stu's first tip is choose what you drink from wisely.
There's a lot of psychology behind when we taste things.
So here we have a nice red mug.
I love that colour. That's actually the same colour as my mug at home.
The same drink out of a red mug
will taste sweeter than one out of a white mug.
So our brain is a huge factor in how we taste?
Research shows that we associate certain colours with certain tastes.
Red suggest ripeness and sweetness.
What else don't you like about my cup of tea?
The type of water that you're using.
That is hard water.
What happens when you use hard water to make a cup of tea,
-you sometimes get that scum on the top.
You've got the scum. Lovely.
So what's happening is some of the flavour compounds are reacting
with the calcium, and then they form this scummy layer.
So you're actually losing flavour.
What you're seeing on the top there is actually some of flavour
that's being lost in that scum.
Tip two - if you have hard water, filter it before boiling.
This removes some of the calcium and magnesium residues,
and you'll get a tastier, clearer cup.
Now I've got my cup and water right,
Stu is ready with his most important top tea bag tip.
I would like you now to make yourself a cup of tea,
but we're going to leave it longer, five minutes.
Five minutes! That's a long time.
The amount of time we steep our tea bag for does make a difference.
Surely the tea will be ruined.
Try it and see what you think.
Tea bag in.
Here we go.
I mean, I would never have the patience to brew my tea this long.
It is a long time, but it's going to be too hot to drink anyway,
so you've got to leave it.
Just more of the flavour coming out,
and also more caffeine comes out, so the stronger the tea will be.
There's also more of the antioxidants coming out.
Tea is a great source of antioxidants,
and these are natural substances
that our body uses to help fight disease.
So it is important that you leave it to brew.
Three, two, one.
Quick, get it out.
-There you go.
Doctor Stu can show me the difference a five-minute brew makes
to levels of caffeine and antioxidants in tea.
A UV spectrometer measures the light the caffeine absorbs,
revealing its concentration.
So we've analysed that data
and we've found the amount of caffeine in the two cups of tea.
So, in your cuppa, just 30 seconds,
there was 35mg of caffeine in that cup.
Whereas in mine, we're coming up to 50mg of caffeine.
So if you're a bit more patient, you get more bang for your buck.
You do indeed.
And it's not only caffeine that increases with that longer brew -
antioxidant levels more than double.
Leaving it for extra period of time,
you're getting a lot more of the health benefits that are in the tea.
But does any of this actually make any difference to taste?
You tell me if you think it was worth it.
This actually has flavour and tastes...
..delicious. And that makes this taste like hot water.
So, the mug, the water, the colour, the flavour,
it is, without doubt...
..the perfect cup of tea.
My tea bags are heading to packaging, all 6.9 million of them.
But before they can be boxed up,
they go through a safety check with Karen Williams.
What happens at this bit?
Right. This is where we do our metal check
to make sure there's no metal in the tea. And we do this every hour.
How does it work?
This is our metal detector, and we put the three checks through.
They have metal inside each one.
The machine is always checking the tea bags?
-I get you.
-You just put it through to make sure the machine's still working.
Since you've been here,
have you ever found any bits of metal in the tea?
-How long have you been doing it?
-Well, if you've never seen any metal,
and you've been doing it for nearly 30 years, what's the point?
-It's a waste of time.
-It's not a waste of time.
-I think they should make you redundant.
It's not a waste of time.
-Is it not?
-No, it's not.
-Would you like me to do a check?
-Are we ready?
All right, no metal of any sort in my tea bags.
None at all.
I'm really pleased, cos I have a reputation for quality.
-Thank you very much.
Now I need to get 240 of my tea bags into every carton,
and each sachet contains 40.
Luckily, this machine is calculating it all so I don't have to.
And my engineer friend Bob is helping keep count.
If you look down there, Gregg, the sachets are firing in one at a time.
It puts two in the pocket, then releases the pocket.
-That little black container you call a pocket?
The machine has to do 240 tea bags in one box.
So there's two sachets in each pocket,
so we need three pockets to go past to make the count right.
Now what happens?
Follow it down the line.
The conveyor takes each six-pack of sachets
to meet their cartons.
So, those suckers, they're taking the box.
What I love is this -
this bit of machinery that basically opens the box up.
Opens and closes them.
I like that little fella, that's spinning around,
-and his job is to close the flaps.
That's his only job.
But he seems to be doing it with a great deal of enthusiasm.
The machine is filling 25 cartons a minute, that's 6,000 bags.
So, after just an hour,
all my 6.9 million tea bags are boxed up
and look ready for the shelf.
-We're almost there, aren't we?
-Almost at the end of the line.
Now we're going to see the cartons go into the outer.
These outers are thick enough to protect the cartons,
whether they're travelling by road, sea or air.
Right, there we go.
Pack of eight.
Folds them, glues them and sends them on their way.
I feel a bit sad to say goodbye to my tea bags.
Now it's up to Robbie the Robot's little brother
to distribute my boxes neatly onto 52 pallets.
So it stacks this in the set pattern...
They look like they're alive, don't they? They really do.
Do they look like a dinosaur to you?
-What does it look like to you?
Like a big giraffe with a very long neck.
My tea blend and I have finally made it to dispatch.
6½ hours ago, I saw my black tea leaves arrive from Kenya.
Now, after being transformed into 20 tonnes of blended tea bags,
they're being loaded back onto lorries.
Helping send them off is operations manager Danny.
Now, I've never seen one of them.
That appears to be a double-decker lorry.
Did you have that made?
Yeah, the company made it specifically for us.
I've never seen anything like that.
I suppose you could do that cos the tea is relatively light.
-That's correct, yeah.
-How many boxes on there?
So there's 2,800, Gregg.
How many tea bags is that, do you know?
Roughly, I'd say just over 5 million tea bags in there, Gregg.
Over 5 million.
-Do you hold them in storage here?
-No, we don't store anything on site.
So as soon as they're made, they're loaded up onto the truck?
Loaded up on the truck and they leave site.
All for the UK market?
Majority is the UK market, Gregg,
but we do to another 30 countries worldwide.
I think we'd best move and let the lads get this loaded.
30 countries around the world.
-We should go on a tour.
Gregg and Danny's TT tour.
As well as landing on the shelves of shops all over Britain,
some of my 6.9 million tea bags will head off right around the world.
The keenest customers are in Canada, the US, Ireland and Japan.
There it is, my batch of tea bags.
You know, this is a big factory and it handles a lot of volume,
and that's impressive. But I've seen a fair few big factories now,
and what really impresses me, in fact, amazes me,
is I thought tea bags just had one type of tea in them, but they don't.
They bring in tea from all over the world and they have to make
a different recipe and blend them together
every time they make a batch of tea bags,
so that our cup of tea taste exactly the same time and time again.
Now, that is impressive!
'Next time, we head overseas to Italy...'
Tutti spaghetti! It's a waterfall!
'..and the largest pasta factory in the world...'
Six tonnes every hour?
100 worms coming down.
'..revealing the secrets to making 300,000 tonnes a day.'
Every single one of these wheels is one more pasta shape?
'And Cherry makes a super-sized batch of sauce to go with it.'
It's like a really odd video game.
That is fantastic and funny.
Gregg Wallace receives a load of tea leaves from Kenya and follows their journey through the factory that produces one quarter of all the tea we drink in Britain. Gregg turns his 20-tonne batch into 6.9 million bags. Along the way, he discovers that there can be up to 20 different teas in your bag and that the recipe for the blend is altered every day, measured against a standard created in 1978.
Meanwhile, Cherry Healey discovers the secrets of the tea leaf in an African tea-processing plant. She learns that 40% of each leaf is made up of chemicals called polyphenols. She is surprised to find that white, green and black tea are all made from the same leaves. She also discovers that the bag surrounding your tea is not ordinary paper, but a highly engineered fabric made up of hemp, wood and polypropylene. She watches as a 60-kilometre-long roll is produced. And she gets some scientific tips on making the best possible cup of tea with a tea bag.
Historian Ruth Goodman investigates tea adulteration. In the 19th century, there were eight separate factories in London which existed solely to dry and recolour used tea leaves. She discovers that it was 'honest' John Hornim who put that right and ensured we could trust our tea. She also finds that in the military during the Second World War, armoured divisions had to leave the safety of their tanks to brew up - a habit that resulted in many casualties. She climbs on board a modern-day tank to make a cup of tea with a boiling vessel, the innovation that solved this problem.