This is a very old rolling machine. It was imported by the Japanese during their period of occupation of Taiwan.
This type of rolling machine was invented in 1872 by a British engineer by the name of William Jackson. The purpose of this machine was to assist, and expedite, the production of black tea. This machine allows a large quantity of black tea to be rolled at once. The purpose of rolling the tea is two fold:
1. Rolling bruises the skin of the tea leaf. This helps speed up and ensure an even oxidation. This allows the enzymes contained within the leaves to come to the surface. These enzymes are largely responsible for the wonderful flavor of black tea. Without skillful execution of this step of production, the tea will be bland.
2. It shapes the tea. Before this machine, black tea must not have had a very beautiful strip shape.
This is our Native Black Tea. You can see how beautifully tightly rolled the strips are.
Because of the advantages offered by Mr. Jackson's rolling machine, his invention was quickly imported to Japan. When Japan started to produce black tea in Sun Moon Lake, Yuchi Township, they imported several of these machines to Taiwan.
The introduction of this machine completely revolutionized black tea production in Taiwan. Not only did it allow for a much greater quantity of black tea to be produced, it, counter-intuitively enough, also increased the quality of black tea production. This was the start of the modern period of "half-handmade" black tea production.
This particular machine belongs to Mr. Lee. It has been in his family for four generations. Amazingly enough it still works like new!