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Van Rees’ Unique Tea Blending System
Staff Report

As one of the largest global independent suppliers and distributors of tea, Van Rees is no stranger to supplying the tea industry with notable products.The company recently installed a tea blending drum and cleaning system in Colombo that is re-defining how loose leaf tea is processed in the industry.


Van Rees began in 1819 as Jan van Rees & Zoon, traders in tea, who delivered their tea in parcels by hand or traveled on bicycles to customers in Holland and Germany. From these simple beginnings, the Van Rees Group has become a global tea supplier with representation in many producing countries as well as consumer markets. In 1966, the Sri Lanka office came into being that served as a shipping office, facilitating shipments to Rotterdam. Later Van Rees Ceylon Ltd. became an autonomous entity within the Group, and now, in large part functions on their own.

Recently, the company believed that the present process of blending and packing of leafy teas for export did not meet acceptable standards. They felt the consumer had to be serviced by processing teas in a hygienic manner in accordance with internationally accepted quality standards. Mechanical blending was an option in regards to production from Sri Lanka, but it also had to fulfill the ability to blend large leaf teas mechanically. The result was the introduction of a unique mechanical blending and cleaning plant, capable of handling large leaf teas while ensuring food safety and hygienic conditions. The technology was developed in India to meet the specifications given by Van Rees Ceylon.

After various tests, the blending process is now at its first stages but the company is confident that there will be an increase in demand from all major importers from around the world. In particular, an increase could be expected from the more advanced markets where greater emphasis is laid on hygiene concerns as this process is completely in accordance with HACCP requirements.

The system has also been installed in Colombo, where Van Rees Ceylon buys its requirements from the weekly auctions, which is the largest of its kind in the world with over seven million kilos sold weekly. They produce over 700 factories from high, mid and low grown areas that is auctioned at this center. The Colombo location is also significant to the tea trade, as it blends the leafiest of large leaf teas, including Ceylon OPA with a bulk density of 5.7 liters per kg. The machine is flexible enough to blend all grades, down to the finest dust grades. Additionally, the integrated cleaning system removes extraneous matter, ensuring evenness of sizing by eliminating dust particles often found in leafy teas. The new blending and cleaning plant will have HACCP food safety certification. All blending and cleaning would have strict hygienic in-house conditions, and with the commissioning of this automated plant the ‘untouched by hand’ legend would carry meaningful assurance of its optimum standard of production. Standards expected at EU/US destinations would be fully complied. This may not sound quite that extraordinary, except that the size and capacity of the drum could deliver a minimum 4.5 metric tons each hour, (of the largest leaf grades), which is a unique characteristic that the company specifically set out to accomplish.

The machine also features a slow moving drum at three revolutions per minute (RPM), which ensures gentle action, avoiding breakage of the often-delicate leaf, and an inbuilt cleaning mechanism. The interior mechanism ensures dispersion of the leaf to avoid lumps, knots, and snags.

The company also focuses on custom made technology that reflects the most updated automation features that they feel will raise standards diametrically throughout the industry. They feel that their plant can improve working conditions by concentrating on worker welfare and upgrading human resources. Within these parameters the cleaning system has the capacity to extract stones, metal particles and other extraneous additions, such as strands of hair. It can also extract tea dust often associated with leaf tea. Technology and high quality are some of Van Rees’ many goals.

Van Rees Ceylon Ltd., 51/27 New Nuge Road, Peliyagoda, Sri Lanka. Tel. (94) 11 2931698, E-mail: vrc@vanrees.lk. Managing director: Shamal T. de Sylva; tea director: Andrew Christoffelsz.


Tea & Coffee - August/September, 2006
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