The Art of Making Tea

Step 1: The Plucking

In gardens across the world, pluckers are the beginnings of a great cuppa’ tea. Moving around the garden to harvest different areas every six to 14 days, depending on the season, the plucker’s skilled hands are the key to getting “good leaf.”

That “good leaf” is then carried to the “tea factory” close to the garden, to begin the next process in preparation.

Step 2: Withering

Tea leaves are next laid out on a large bed of forced, blown air.  The air leads to the leaves withering – removing moisture from the leaf so that it reaches a dry, almost leathery texture.

Step 3: Rolling

Tea then goes through the rolling process. It is spread out on rolling tables, or rolling machines, that curl the leaf, tighten it and push out many of its oils. The previous withering step of the process is integral to rolling, because withering allows the leaf to reach a consistency that will keep it from breaking while being rolled.

The leaf is beginning to resemble the tea you are used to seeing in your average tea sachet—but there is still some processing that needs to occur before it’s ready for tasting.

Step 4: Fermentation

Fermentation is one of the most essential steps in tea processing.  Tea is laid out in a large, warm, humid room, and left to “ferment” (which is actually technically oxidation, not fermentation!).  As the tea begins reacting with the warm air, its flavor (and caffeine content) begins to develop.  At this point, experts at the tea factory have to use their senses, actually bringing large handfuls of the tea up to their noses and drawing in a deep breath.  When they decide that the tea’s flavor has reached its peak, they quickly stop the fermenting process before the tea has time to begin declining in flavor.

Tea's flavors, aroma and caffeine contents develops during fermentation.

How does the tea factory stop oxidation from occurring?  By firing the tea.  Tea is quickly heated, which dries the tea and halts its chemical reaction with the warm air.  It also now takes on the form most tea drinkers are used to seeing in a two leaves and a bud tea sachet – a crisp, crackly leaf loaded with flavor.

Step 5: Firing

How does the tea factory stop oxidation from occurring?  By firing the tea.  Tea is quickly heated, which dries the tea and halts its chemical reaction with the warm air.  It also now takes on the form most tea drinkers are used to seeing in a two leaves and a bud tea sachet – a crisp, crackly leaf loaded with flavor.

(courtesy of Two Leaves and a Bud)

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