When tea leaves are picked, they are classified by size, type and appearance to determine the destiny of the tea, whether black, green or in-between, caffeinated or decaffeinated. There are two ways to make black tea, the ‘orthodox’ method and the ‘CTC’ method.
In the orthodox method, the tea leaves go through four stages:
Withering: This first stage reduces tea leaves moisture to about 60%−70% leaving them bendy and ready to be rolled.
Rolling: This movement twists and turns the leaves until they’re thin and wiry looking.
Oxidation: This process determines the tea’s color, taste and strength.
Drying: Once the leaves have been oxidized to the right level, they’re passed through hot air dryers leaving them ready to be sorted and packed.
CTC is the second way of making tea is called the ‘Cut, Tear and Curl’, used to produce tiny granules which are perfect for tea bags. After this, they go through the same oxidation and drying process as the orthodox method.
To make green tea, the oxidation process is completely left out. It’s this lack of oxidation that gives green tea leaves their light, fresh flavor and delicate taste. Before leaving the tea factory, all tea types are graded, sorted and separated into batches to be ready for packing into foil-lined paper sacks or tea chests.