All teas, including black, oolong, green and white teas, are made from one plant – the Camellia Sinensis plant. Where they differ is in the processing! The tea leaves are processed by withering, rolling, oxidation, firing/drying or by combining some of these processing methods.
Withering tea leaves
During the withering process the leaves are spread out on drying racks or in some cases bamboo mats allowing the air to circulate around them. This can be done outside in the sun and fresh air (weather permitting) or inside using a heated air circulating system. The leaves are withered to reduce the water contact and should be pliable at the end of the process. Withering can take anywhere between 10 to 20 hours depending on the region where it is picked.
Rolling tea leaves
After withering, the green leaves are moved to the rolling process. This can be done by hand or by machines. Here they are rolled and twisted to break up the leaves releasing the oils trapped within, starting the oxidation process. This brings out the teas unique flavour and bouquet. The rolling process takes 20 to 30 minutes. Then the leaves are sifted through, so that the unrolled leaves can go through the rolling process again.
Oxidization or Fermentation of tea leaves
Once the leaves have been withered and rolled they go through the oxidation process. The tea leaves are spread out on tables or floors (cement, tile or glass) in a room that has fresh air with high levels of humidity circulating through it. Some tea manufacturers us a large revolving drum with an air circulating system for this process.
The length of oxidation varies as this is what determines if you have black, oolong, green or white tea.
Drying or Firing tea leaves
The drying or firing process is similar to the withering stage and is necessary to stop further oxidation. The drying process lasts approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until the moisture content of the tea leaves is about 3%.
Part 2 – to be posted in January will discuss which processes are used for Black, oolong, green and white tea.
Live in Ottawa or have a tea loving friend there? Here’s your chance to samples all kinds of Camilla sinenesis – tea : )
2 For 1 Tickets to the Ottawa Tea Festival @ City Hall – November 5, 2011
The Ottawa Tea Festival will provide you with a one of a kind experience – Sampling a wide selection of teas for free from the main Tea Growing Regions, Tea Ceremony Performances, Presentations and Traditional Dance Performances from India and Sri Lanka. Visit different booths, collect information and buy your favourite teas to enjoy at home.
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