How is Tea Made? A Brief Guide on Tea Making.
What do you know that is delicious, can pick you up in the morning, or help you calm down at night, and also provides a host of beneficial nutrients? That’s right. Tea is an exceptional drink that can be enjoyed at any time. Between the flavonoids and polyphenols, you can’t go wrong with a cup of tea.
Have you ever wondered how this magnificent drink came to be?
If you have ever questioned what goes into tea than keep reading this guide to learn more about the process and learn the tea making process.
Step 1: It All Starts With a Seed
Typically tea plant seeds are germinated in water for a period of 24-48 hours to allow the plant to begin to grow within the seed.
After germination begins, its time to place them in direct sunlight to allow them to dry. Depending on the weather conditions, it could take another 1-2 days and possibly longer for the shell to split.
As the shell begins to split, they are planted in the ground about an inch deep with the hole in the shell facing the sun.
The seeds are then watered when needed. For best results, growers make sure to keep the soil well-drained to prevent rotting and contamination. Another growing tip – high altitude tea plants have the best flavor and aroma.
While tea plants can grow quite tall, around 50 feet, most growers will keep them around 4 feet or waist level to make harvesting easier. Most plants may take a few years to develop and mature, around four years.
Step 2: The Harvest Begins
Depending on the region that the tea leaves are being grown will determine how long the harvest lasts. Places like China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Taiwan are known for their prestige growing conditions. Tea plants enjoy a warm, humid, and tropical climate.
When tea plants grow in optimal conditions, the harvest can last eight months in some cases. Other less optimal climates will harvest maybe two times a year.
Many tea leaves are handpicked to ensure quality. The harvesters typically will use special tools including shears, to trim the leaves and a basket to store them. As harvesters gain experience, they can recognize what leaves are ready to be picked and can make sure they are getting the best quality.
There is a particular method for picking tea leaves during the harvest. The leaves are only selected from the very top of the plant, about one to two inches, known as flushes.
The tea leaves are then sorted based on their size, quality, and appearance. This is the process of determining what types of tea it is. Leaves are separated into groups, including:
- Or oolong
Different countries and regions have various ways of sorting that could vary slightly.
Step 3: Sorting and Withering
It’s hard to believe, but most types of tea are created from the same tea leaves. It is in the way they are processed that gives them their unique taste and aroma. Below are some of the different processes to tea.
Black tea is made through a process called oxidation. The process consists of four different stages, including:
- And then drying
During the withering stage, it is a quick transport from the field to the factory to begin the process. The leaves are placed on a wire mesh to allow air to circulate and reduce the water content of the leaves. This could take anywhere from 12- 20 hours.
After they are withered, they are rolled in a machine to break them up and loosen them. Some places will still hand roll the tea leaves, but that is not common anymore.
Now comes the most critical step for black tea, the oxidation process. During this stage, leaves are placed on a glass table and covered to avoid sunlight. The leaves then ferment and change from a green color to vibrant brown color.
As the oxidation process takes place, enzymes are released from the leaves reacting with the air and turning the leaves a darker color.
Depending on how dark you like, black tea will determine how long the oxidation process lasts.
After the leaves reach the oxidation level you are happy with it is time to dry them some more. Leaves are placed in large dryers to further dry them out to be ready for packing.
What About the Other Types of Tea?
As previously mentioned, white, black, and green tea all start from the same leaves, so how is the process different?
Green tea is made by the same process as black tea, except there is no oxidation stage. Without the oxidation process, leaves remain a beautiful green color and hold on to their flavor and aroma.
White tea has a very similar process to green tea. The only difference being the leaves are young, and the buds used are unopened, compared to green tea using the open buds.
Oolong tea is a favorite among tea drinkers for its unique flavor and taste. Oolong tea is made by only partially oxidizing the tea leaves. This gives oolong a larger portion of green leaves but still turns some a brownish color.
How Is Decaf Tea Made?
All tea leaves contain some amount of caffeine. The actual amount of caffeine is determinant on how long the tea leaves are oxidized. The longer the leaves are oxidized, the stronger the caffeine content will be.
Here is a list of tea in order of most potent caffeine content to least strong:
- Black tea
- Green tea
- And white tea
For some people, even the smallest amount of caffeine can give them unwanted side effects, making decaffeinated tea a necessity.
Decaf tea is made by soaking the tea leaves in methylene chloride. This process releases caffeine molecules, which then stick to the solution, leaving the tea leaves with significantly less caffeine.
Wrapping up the Tea Making Process
As you can see, the process behind how tea is made is a very structured and detailed operation. The art of making tea has been around for centuries, and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon.
If you are looking to enjoy a nice cup of tea, check out our shop for amazing craft tea.