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Tea Manufacturing Process



Tea Manufacturing Process 


All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, however, where the tea is grown, the climate, soil conditions, altitude, etc, and how the tea is processed such as plucking, withering, rolling, fermentation and drying, determines the flavor characteristics of the tea. Based on the method of production, tea can be divided into three categories - black, oolong, white and green.


Black tea is withered, fully oxidized (fermented) and dried. Black teas are available from various estates, countries and regions, with added flavorings and also as specialty blends.

The two main types of manufacture for black teas are Orthodox (rolled whole leaf) and CTC-Cut Torn and Curled (appears like little ball bearings). The Orthodox method produces the traditional looking tea leaf - long and wiry whole leaf types. This is achieved as follows - the withered leaf is fed into what appears to be a very large mixing bowl with a large paddle that mashes the tea. During the process the tea is torn apart to a certain degree and also crushed. To achieve 'clean' tea, several series of stalk extractors are used. Orthodox teas tend to be lighter and less full bodied as compared to CTC manufactured teas.

The CTC manufacturing process turns the tea into what appears to be small balls of tea. The withered tea leaf passes between two large rollers that are revolving opposite to one another. On each roller are a multitude of sharp blades set at an angle that mesh with the opposing roller. As the tea passes through this series of blades the tea is cut and torn apart and is compressed or curled into little balls.

CTC is a popular variety of manufacturing since producers realize higher yields from acreages under tea cultivation. Also CTC teas are more suitable to tea bagging since they flow more easily to gravity fed bagging machines. CTC teas tend to be more full bodied and robust and are well suited to 'gutsy' blends.

Some of the processes involved in tea production are:

Plucking: Top quality tea is hand plucked and the best tea comes from the new shoots which are the top two leaves and the bud of this shoot. It takes 4.5 pounds of green leaf to produce one pound of black tea.

Withering: The leaves are spread out on long trays in warm temperatures for 12-16 hours so that they loose water (approx 50% of moisture content).

Rolling: In the withered leaves are first rolled by machine then often crushed torn and curled (CTC method) to break open the tea cells.

Fermentation: The tea is left open to the air for one to two hours. Oxidation occurs affecting both the taste and the color of the tea.

Drying: After the fermentation stage the leaves are passed through a drier stopping the oxidization process.

After processing, the tea is sorted and tasted and, if desired, the tea is blended and/or flavored.

Oolong tea is generally wilted in direct sunlight (solar withering), partially oxidized (fermented) and dried. The leaves are then shaken in tubular bamboo baskets to bruise the leaf edges, making the edges oxidize faster than the centre of the leaf. The leaves are shaken and spread out to air-dry several times until the leaf veins become apparent and the surface yellows. The edges become reddish from oxidization while the centre remains green. Fermentation is stopped halfway through by firing.

Green tea is an unfermented tea, it may or may not go through a withering process. The leaves are immediately panfired, steamed or baked to prevent oxidization, thus no chemical change. The tea leaves are then rolled and dried.

White tea is a special type of green tea. Like green teas this tea is unfermented. White teas go through the least amount of processing of all the teas. White teas are withered and then immediately dried by steaming.



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