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Worker picking tea flushes in Tanzania.
Tea processing is the method in which the leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis are transformed into the dried leaves for brewing tea. The categories of tea are distinguished by the processing they undergo. In its most general form, tea processing involves different manners and degree of oxidation of the leaves, stopping the oxidation, forming the tea and drying it. The innate flavour of the tealeaves is determined by the type of cultivar of the tea bush, the quality of the plucked tea leaves, and the manner and quality of the production processing they undergo.
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1 General 2 Type specific processing 3 References 4 External links
Tea leaf processing methods for the six most common types of tea
Although each type of tea has different taste. tea processing for all tea types consists of a very similar set of methods with only minor variations:
Tea leaves being wilted at a Bangladesh tea factory
. smell. and visual appearance.
though they occur when climate permits. Picking is done by hand when a higher quality tea is needed. In this process the chlorophyll in the leaves is enzymatically broken down. Bruising: In order to promote and quicken oxidation. the leaves may be
bruised by shaking and tossing in a bamboo tray. Tea flushes and leaves can also be picked by machine. which
. Withering/ Wilting: The tea leaves will begin to wilt soon after picking. and its tannins are released or transformed. tumbling in baskets or by being kneaded or rolled-over by heavy wheels. Autumn or winter pickings of tea flushes are much less common. This is accompanied by agitation in some cases . the leaves are
left on their own in a climate-controlled room where they turn progressively darker. which includes a terminal bud and 2
3. are plucked from Camellia sinensis bushes typically twice a year during early spring and early summer or late spring. Wilting is used to remove excess water from the leaves and allows a very slight amount of oxidation. Oxidation / Fermentation: For teas that require oxidation. The bruising breaks down the structures within and outside of the leaf cells and allows from the commingling of oxidative enzymes with various substrates. The leaves can be either put under the sun or left in a cool breezy room to pull moisture out from the leaves.
2. or where labour costs are not prohibitive.1. The process is also important in promoting the breakdown of leaf proteins into free amino acid and increases the availability of freed caffeine both of which changes the taste of the tea. since doing the latter reduces the quality of the leaves. Picking: Tea leaves and flushes.
with a gradual onset of enzymatic oxidation.
4. Hand-picking is done by pulling the flush with a snap of the wrist and does not involve twisting or pinching the flush. This process is sometimes referred to as "fermentation" in the tea industry. though there will be more broken leaves and partial flushes. The tea producer may choose when the oxidation should be stopped. It is also more difficult to harvest by machine on mountain slopes where tea is often grown. The leaves sometimes lose more than a quarter of their weight in water during wilting. which allows for the beginning of oxidation. which may aid in oxidation and change the taste profile of the tea. This also releases some of the leaf juices.
7. such as being rolled into spirals.depends on the desired qualities in the final tea as well as the weather conditions (heat and humidity). but with advancements in technology. The resulting leaves produce a beverage that has a distinctive yellowishgreen hue due to transformations of the leaf chlorophyll. and briskness. Sweltering / Yellowing: Unique to yellow teas. the amino acids and polyphenols in the processed tea leaves undergo chemical changes to give this tea its distinct briskness and mellow taste. essential oils. in darker oolong teas 60-70%. or overly thick winey flavours. which causes the previously green leaves to yellow. and in black teas 100% oxidation. by hand or using a rolling machine which causes the tea to wrap around itself. Rolling / Shaping:The damp tea leaves are then rolled to be formed into
wrinkled strips. and juices inside the leaves to ooze out. the tea leaves are panned in a wok or steamed. Oxidation is highly important in the formation of many taste and aroma compounds. or tied into balls. For light oolong teas this may be anywhere from 5-40% oxidation. kneaded and rolled into pellets. without damaging the flavour of the tea.
6. In many type of oolong. kill-green is done simultaneously with drying. which further enhances the taste of the tea. Depending on the type of tea desired. This rolling action also causes some of the sap. kill-green is sometimes done by baking or "panning" in a rolling drum. Traditionally. thus deactivating their oxidative enzymes and removing unwanted scents in the leaves. which are then kneaded by hand or machine in a specific manner. warm and damp tea
leaves from after kill-green are allowed to be lightly heated in a closed container. cones and other elaborate shapes. the rolled strips of tea leaf are then rolled to spheres or half spheres and is typically done by placing the damp leaves in large cloth bags. This process is accomplished by moderately heating tea leaves. Fixation / Kill-green: Kill-green or shāqīng (殺青) is done to stop the tea
leaf oxidation at a desired level. strength. Through being sweltered for 6-8 hours at close to human body temperatures.
. The strips of tea can then be formed into other shapes. which give a tea its liquor colour. under or over-oxidation/fermentation can result in grassy flavours.
5. In some white teas and some black teas such as CTC blacks.
or baking. Aging / Curing: While not always required. either with steam the Japanese method. This can be done in a
myriad of ways including panning. air drying. White tea is produced in lesser quantities than most other styles. It is less well known in countries outside of China. prior to curing into a post-fermented tea. but becomes sweet and mellow through fermentation by age or dampness. The drying of the produced tea are responsible for many new flavour compounds particularly important in green teas. fungi will grow on tea. This form of fungus causes real fermentation that will contaminate the tea and may render the tea unfit for consumption. Great care must be taken to not over-cook the leaves. secondary-fermentation. As well. a green tea puerh. leaf buds processed into white tea are usually dried immediately after wilting.8. baking is usually the most common. and can be correspondingly more expensive than tea from the same plant processed by other methods. some teas required additional
aging. The buds may be shielded from sunlight to prevent formation of chlorophyll. is often bitter and harsh in taste. The oxidation process is halted through quick application of heat after tea picking. or baking to reach their drinking potential. sunning. Drying: Drying is done to "finish" the tea for sale. Flavored teas are manufactured in this stage by spraying the tea with aromas and flavors or by storing them with their flavorants. For instance. though this is changing with increased western interest in organic or premium teas. oolong can benefit from aging if fired over charcoal. Though the young leaves may be shaped before drying. or by dry cooking in hot pans. Without careful moisture and temperature control during its manufacture and life thereafter. However.
Tea is traditionally classified based on the degree or period of "fermentation" the leaves have undergone: White tea Young leaves or new growth buds that have undergone minimal oxidation through a slight amount of wilting before halting the oxidation with heat. Green tea This tea has undergone the least amount of oxidation.
 Oolong (Wulong) Oxidation is stopped somewhere between the standards for green tea and black tea. Pakistan. semi-oxidized teas are collectively grouped as blue tea (青茶. which is used by some tea lovers.traditional Chinese method. Tear. The processing typically takes two to three days from wilting to drying with a relatively short oxidation period of several hours.) and in the last century many African countries including Kenya. India. In Chinese. literally: blue-green tea / "celadon tea"). Curl. This process is time consuming and is typically done with pekoes of higher quality. Malawi and Zimbabwe. Tea leaves may be left to dry as separate leaves or they may be rolled into small pellets to make Gunpowder tea. and if done correctly retains most of the chemical composition of the fresh leaves from which it was produced. However. Bangladesh. Black tea is first withered to induce protein breakdown and reduce water content (68-77% of original). some producers attempt to minimize oxidation in order to produce a specific taste.Rwanda. an increasingly popular South African tisane. Black tea is the most common form of tea in southern Asia (Sri Lanka. Black tea is further classified as either orthodox or as CTC (Crush. red tea may also refer to rooibos. heavily rolled or torn to bruise and disrupt the leaf cell structures and activate oxidation. Black tea/Red tea The tea leaves are allowed to completely oxidize. Westerners call it black tea because the tea leaves used to brew it are usually black. The literal translation of the Chinese word is red tea. etc. Burundi. The Chinese call it red tea because the actual tea liquid is red. transforming much of the catechins of the leaves into complex tannin. Unblended black teas
. Even so. The tea is processed within one to two days of harvesting.
The oxidation process takes between 45–90 minutes to 3
hours and is done at high humidity between 20-30 degrees Celsius. while the term "oolong" is used specifically as a name for certain semi-oxidized teas. Common wisdom about lightly oxidized teas in Taiwan (a large producer of Oolong) is that too little oxidation upsets the stomach of some consumers. a production method developed about 1932).
covered. their year and the flush (first. Liu'an. Pu-erh. which results in a yellowish or greenish-yellow color. known in Chinese as red tea. but the flavor as well is distinctive. This is not to be confused with the English term Black tea.
Da Hong Pao tea. are collectively referred to as secondary or post-fermentation teas in English. as this was a tea popular at court ceremonies for its bright color and smooth pouring before the Imperial court. The name derives from this "yellowing" process. also known as Póu léi (Polee) in Cantonese is the most common type of post-fermetation tea in the market. and gently heated in a humid environment. Yellow tea This tea is processed in a similar manner to green tea but instead of immediate drying after fixation is stacked. while CTC teas use a different grading system.are also identified by the estate they come from. anOolong tea
. and possibly includes a reference to the color yellow which indicates the emperor. such as Pu-erh. second or autumn). Orthodox processed black teas are further graded according to the post-production leaf quality by the Orange Pekoe system. Post-fermented tea Teas that undergo a second oxidation. This tea is popular in Japanese tea ceremonies due to its appearance. In Chinese they are categorized as Dark tea or black tea. and Liubao. This initiates oxidation in the chlorophyll of the leaves through non-enzymatic and non-microbial means.
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. a type of compressed raw pu-erh
Huoshan Huangya tea. a white tea
Green Pu-erh tuo cha. ^ The Tea Guardian. ^ The Tea Guardian. aYellow tea
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Tea processing steps with explanations (Chinese)
Government site describing tea production (Chinese)
Black tea Oolong tea Green tea White tea Yellow tea Post-fermented tea Blended and flavoured teas Tea culture Tea beverages Other See also
Assam · Bohea · Darjeeling · Dian Hong · Keemun · Lapsang souchong · Masala chai ·
Bai Ji Guan · Da Hong Pao · Darjeeling Oolong · Dong Ding (Tung-ting) · Dong Fang M
Aracha · Bancha · Bi Luo Chun · Chun Mee · Da Fang · Genmaicha · Guapian · Gunpow Lu · Sencha · Shincha · Tamaryokucha Bai Hao Yinzhen · Bai Mu Dan · Darjeeling White · Shou Mei · White monkey paw Junshan Yinzhen · Huoshan Huangya Pu-erh Earl Grey · English Breakfast · Irish Breakfast · Jasmine tea · Russian Caravan
American · Azerbaijani · British · Chinese · Hong Kong · Indian · Japanese · Korean · M Bubble tea · Butter tea · Iced tea · Lei cha · Jagertee · Sweet tea · Teh tarik · Teh botol ·
Camellia sinensis (tea plant) · Tea bag · Teapot · Consumption · Glass-holder · Health e Herbal tea · Rooibos
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