tea, tea processing, tea manufacture, firing, whitering, oxidation
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Below from Tales of a Tea Leaf~The Complete Guide to Tea Cuisine by Jill Yates, Square One Publishers, $13.95 ISBN 0-7570-0099-1  ©2005 The following information is used by permission of Square One.  This is copyrighted property and may not be re-printed or used in any manner without proper authority from the publisher. 




Tea Processing

©2005Tales of a Tea Leaf~The Complete Guide to Tea Cuisine by Jill Yates, Square One Publishers

Each category of tea: black, green, oolong, and white, is processed differently.  To process tea is to prepare it for packing, and ultimately consumption.  Once plucked in the field, the process begins.  Black tea is the most processed tea, undergoing either the CTC or orthodox methods.


CTC. (Cut, Tear, Curl): CTC processing method

uses machines to literally cut, tear, and curl the withered tea leaves into small, grainy pieces.  The leaves are then fired, or dried, to remove the moisture.  This method provides quick processing for a high volume of tea leaves, as is commonly used in tea bags.


In the orthodox method of tea manufacture, the tea leaves are also withered, and then rolled, oxidized (also known as fermented), and fired, described as follows:


Withering. Freshly harvested tea leaves are spread out onto tables or trays and left to air dry, or "wither."  This preserves the leaf by removing most of the moisture.  As moisture evaporates from the leaf, it becomes soft and limp in preparation for the next step, rolling.


Rolling.  Machines break the cells in the withered leaves, which releases the tea leaf's juices and enzymes.  This exposes them to the air and enhances oxidation, which is the next step.  In the highest quality tea, this process is done by hand.


Oxidation.  Also known as fermentation.  Oxidation begins during the rolling process as the enzymes and juices of the broken leaves are exposed to air, resulting in a natural chemical process that produces the unique aroma and flavor of the tea.  The rolled leaves are spread out in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room where the tea leaf color deepens from green to a reddish-brown, and then to nearly black.


Firing.  The oxidized tea leaves are fired, or dried, by slowly heating them in a drying chamber.  This stops the oxidation process and dehydrates the leaves in preparation for storage.



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