Jimmie Bain


January 15 2014

Jimmie Bain's thoughts

           One cannot but respect the case put forward by Ranga and the
factual data which supports it. Should one wish to study  progress in  
the tea industry in all its facets and the efforts made by scientific bodies
the ITA,  R&D establishments and  Planters in pursuit of excellence since
Bruce first discovered the potential for commercial exploitation of the
tea bush in India, I would recommend Sir Percival Griffith's The History
of the Indian Tea Industry. This covers the period from it's beginning
through to the 1960's. Toklai also published regular papers which  make
a compendium of their research recommendations otherwise known as
the planters bible .I can only comment on  my participation from 1952
to 1960 in Assam, 1960 to 1983 as Visiting Engineer and member of ITA
Engineering sub committee based in Calcutta .Visited fellow planters and
research institutions in Assam, Bengal, South India, Ceylon Kenya and
Africa, all dedicated to the same ideals, Finally from 1984 to 1993 as  
Factory manager on  a project to completely re-build and modernise a
tea factory in Malawi  ending my career as Assistant General Manager.
I have given my CV to show my tea credentials as it has formed the
basis on which I am now able to reflect on how  things have changed 
during  my time in tea.


I will try to give a different aspect  on what I consider what progress, or lack of, has taken
place. More importantly, I will be as brief as I can so bear with !!!
50,s & 60s, 70's 80's and a short time in the 90's
         Leaf ----- V,P, bushes, better leaf to process. I leave it to  those more competent
than I t to expand on this.  I will however include Shear and mechanical plucking.
Shade abandoned in Africa, Aerial spraying, Cloud seeding in Kenya

      Prime movers---------, From steam engines, line shaft, Pulley & belt drive to diesel
engines and ultimately National Grid permitting machinery to be placed where it was
meant to go and individual conveyors to transfer leaf, what  joy . 

      Withering--------Every conceivable concept mooted and tried, the first recorded
attempt using air movement was by an enterprising planter in the 1870's using a
Bullock to turn a fan !! Leaf houses,  Tunnels, Drums, baskets, boxes finally troughs
in various shapes and sizes,Axial flow fans, forward. reverse and variable flow speeds
and as far as I am aware still the standard method in the majority tea growing countries.
Leaf Processing------------- The good old Rolling Table,it has been with us since hand
rolling became too much to cope with, Norman Jackson a friend and colleague told
me of an  uncle of his who developed the famous Jackson Tea Roller,as a boy he
saw a small scale prototype made in Aberdeen in which Privet Hedge leaves were 
used as an alternative to two and a bud. I digress,Green leaf has been subjected
to murderous assaults in its time, the C.TC, Tobacco cutters, LTP and then the Rotorvane,
Whilst at Kakajan we were in close collaboration with Toklai and Ian Mctear in testing
Rotorvane prototypes , first of all as a continuous roller before finding it's true usefulness
as a pre CTC processer and first step in a continuous system, now that was progress !! 
Fermentation---------The good old Concrete floor I knew a planter who swore by not
cleaning his floor encouraged  good bacteria which enhanced  the liquor and a good
rub down with Banana skins during the second flush worked wonders !! Sorry I digress
yet again. Painting the floor surface with an epoxy paint provided an  hygienic base and
constructing tiered racks humidification de- humidification was an improvement.
Fermenting machines have  always provoked controversy between the scientific body
and the practicality of continuous manufacture and compromises had to be made, on
the whole things worked out pretty well as results showed, whether this was due to an
acceptance by the end user who by demanding a quick brew influenced taste I will
leave others to decide.
 Drying----------- Until Fluid Bed Driers came to the rescue nothing much changed in
the moving parts of the drier, from the tilting tray to the multi pass tray system to the
continuous tray. The big change was in the heaters. From coal to oil firing certainly
made temperature control easier as did heat exchangers, The use of biomass fuel
and steam radiators was also an improvement. .
Sorting and grading------- Sorting retained much of the tried and trusted ways, passing
leaf over different size mesh, the bruising it received didn't do much for the bloom but
the end result satisfied. To be fair efforts were made to obviate this by air movement
but to no great effect,  Stalk and fibre extraction did improve following the in introduction
of the electro- static fibre extractor, a rather technical term for a series of PVC covered
rollers rubbing on a felt strip thus creating a field, this did to a certain extent separate
the wheat from the chaff as it were and should be recognised as progress.   
 Having experienced both sides of the spectrum on the one hand the practicalities of
maintaining and improving plant and machinery against ever rising costs the other
the reality of recommending to heads of departments and ultimately directors  capital
expenditure for projects which may be scientifically sound but perhaps not cost effective.
Persuade machinery manufacturers to play their part .I realise I am long past my sale
by date and a great real has been done in the interim To stay ahead of the field companies
must and all ways will  progress but by how much depends on the viability of the business
.In the context of this debate has the industry reached the stage where the pursuit of
perfection must be tempered by exploiting what is currently fit for purpose.
I rest my case.