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QTrade Teas & Herbs provides specialty teas, herbs, spices, custom blending, product development, and private label services to businesses all over the world. We are the largest importer of organic teas in North America, with an expanding selection of flowers, fruits, and berries. (949) 766-0070 www.qtradeteas.com

Tea Basics 104: Stages of Tea Production

All true teas (white, green, oolong, black, and pu’erh) come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The amount that the leaves are allowed to oxidize after they have been plucked is what distinguishes the varieties of tea from one another.

The following are the basic steps of Orthodox tea production. Future posts will delve more deeply into the different steps that are taken to specifically create each variety of tea.

Step 1. Plucking

The quality and variety of tea being produced will determine which new leaves are plucked for production. It takes roughly five pounds worth of fresh plucked leaves to equal one pound of tea. Most high quality teas are still plucked by hand.

Estate Workers Plucking Tea

Step 2. Withering

Next the tea leaves are spread over large trays where they are left for several hours to wither. As much as seventy percent of their moisture evaporates during this stage. This makes the leaves more pliable and controls their moisture content before they enter the next stage.

Tea Withering

Step 3.  Rolling and Crushing

This stage is either done by hand or by machine. The leaves are rolled in order to break the cell walls and release the enzymes that promote oxidation.

A machine designed for rolling the tea leaves after they've been harvested.

Step 4. Oxidation

Tea is once again spread out on trays or mats to allow the leaves to darken. The longer they are left out the darker the tea will become. Often this process takes several hours to complete, and is carefully monitored by the tea master.

Chinese Tea Producer Checks the Oxidation

Step 5.  Firing

Here the teas are exposed to high temperatures to stop the leaves from oxidizing any further. It also dries the leaf even further so that they contain less than 3% of their original moisture level.

Some teas are heated in tumblers like these.

Step 6.  Sorting

This is where the tea is organized by size. The smallest grade of leaf at the end of the process is what is used in traditional paper tea bags.  The largest grades are what are sold as loose leaf teas.

Tea is Still Sorted Manually in Some Parts of the World

We will dig deeper into how the different varieties are processed in future posts. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this or future posts please leave us a comment below!

www.QTradeTeas.com | (949) 766-0070 | info@qtradeteas.com
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2 Comments on “Tea Basics 104: Stages of Tea Production”

  1. Casey June 8, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    More details please! What different firing methods are there? What are normal differences in oxidation times and processes between types? What are the different picks from plants that are usually associated with different types, (i.e. whites are buds, 1st leaf; blacks are ??)

    • QTrade June 28, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

      Hi Casey. There are not really different firing methods per se. Mostly, tea will go into a large drier where the temperature and length of exposure will arrest the oxidation process. Oxidation can vary from a few minutes to several hours depending on the type of tea being produced, and the atmospheric conditions at the time of plucking and oxidation.

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