It is not unknown that tea forms by drenching the processed tea leaves in freshly boiled water. While this may seem like a simple process, its journey from being hand-picked or chopped off to packaged and shipped is not so simple.
There are different classifications of tea depending on the size of leaves and manufacturing procedures. The ones made by other manufacturing procedures are fermented or black tea, semi-fermented or oolong tea, and lastly, unfermented or green tea.
Here Are The Six Steps During Tea Formation
The first step of tea formation includes growing the plant named Camellia sinensis. The flavor of any finished tea depends on its harvesting procedures and maturing conditions. So, despite this procedure being the fundamental and omnipresent one, it can produce the maximum variation in tea flavor.
The cultivation territory of the plant is the most basic origin of the flavor. Just like different wine grapes grown in other countries taste different, tea flavors also vary from place to place. In this tea-making process, the actual game-changers are the climatic changes, vegetation around the territory, and the soil itself.
To play with the cup’s flavor, farmers can also manually regulate some of the growing conditions of these plants. It is to manage the chemical constitution of the tea. The nature of the tea leaves can change at different elevations or on the texture of the soil. A good example is the phenomenon of harvesting high-quality Japanese green teas. During their growth period, some constructed awnings provide them shade to increase theanine and chlorophyll formation.
Lastly, harvesting the leaves is yet another method to play with the tastes by making variations just at the beginning of the development of the plant. The premium leaves are carefully hand-picked by workers to retain their innate sweetness, but machines process the ones harvested in colossal quantity. In this process, they directly slash the leaves off from the top of the plants. More areas of the leaves are left open to air when they go for faster production. When these chopped leaves are soaked, they immediately release intense flavors. The hand-picked leaves never release their full flavors till you brew them more than once.
After the harvesting of the leaves, wilting is the first process in the processing of tea. The tea leaves are waxy and thick on the plant, so to get them craftable, they are withered or softened. These plucked tea leaves are spread on bamboo mats or fabric to allow them to wilt. Modern farmers with utter exactness control the modifiable factors.
The parameters like temperature and humidity are under control constantly. The leaves’ trays rotate to ensure that even air supply to all sides. This process is essential in the formation of green or white teas. The water content of the leaves reduces to half in this process.
After the completion of the wilting process, the methods of manufacturing different styles start to ramify. The teas that undergo the bruising process are – oolong teas, black teas, and Pu-erh teas. Here the leaves are twisted, rolled, or crushed. This procedure aims to break down the leaves’ cell walls to obtain maximum results in the upcoming technique called oxidizing.
Earlier, the manual bruising of the leaves was the most crucial step in the tea-making process. The leaves were required to be evenly bruised and thoroughly crushed to produce a uniform set of tea. Some teas even undergo multiple stages of crushing and oxidizing rounds.
Nowadays, many small industries are content to carry out their age-old bruising process with modern machines similar to the traditional bruising process that never breaks the leaf. The devices allow a hike in quality consistency and maintain proper cleanliness when used as an artisanal crafting element.
This step is solely responsible for granting the tea leaves their brown color and increasing the concentration of the flavors. All the vaporous components found in it start changing the cells of the leaves that expose to air. The manufacturers control the amount of oxidation to surface the particular levels of flavors. The fermented leaves are moved to a panning trough to get the leaves heated and dried to slow the process.
The colors of the teas keep on changing depending on the level of oxidation. The ones that are fully oxidized have a blackish-brown color, the semi-oxidized form a yellow-amber liquor, while the less oxidized ones are primarily green in color.
The leaf is warmed to end the oxidation process. Denaturation of enzymes occurs on heating, and that in turn stops the oxidation. Oxidation turns the leaf brown. Except for black tea, this step is common for all. In the formation of black tea, the ultimate drying step is to stop the oxidation slowly. This step is also sometimes known as the kill green procedure. But contrary to the name, this process safeguards the green color left in the leaves.
Some differences are continuously formed from the procedure of heating. Indeed, the Japanese green teas with steamed leaves will taste different from the Chinese ones that go through a roasting process.
Again, many new flavors strike your taste buds when the leaves are fried in a wok. The chances of improvement and new ideas are simply endless. So, the manufacturers can find an infinite number of styles.
Finally, the remaining moisture has to be removed from the tea leaves and give a shelf life to make it shelf steady. Now, heating the tea again can have a drastic impact on its flavor. The charcoal roasting process mainly does this process. It grants a noticeably rich quality to the taste of the beverage. It may seem like a rough process. But this process can be very gentle too, but that will not lead to any addition to the tea’s flavor. An excellent example of this is white tea. It is given a traditional roast by sun drying.
After completing drying, the tea is headed towards packaging, based on its variations in its formation steps. By these procedures, a tea leaf can get different flavors in different ways. Modern tea makers are still trying to make different flavors after mixing all the steps mentioned above in non-traditional manners.
The Bottom Line
The importance of tea in our daily life is not unknown to anyone. And tea production is an important sector that employs several thousand people. Tea production is a critical process where a slight change in any parameter can result in the profit or loss of the complete production batch. The producers vary from place to place, and their productions also range for implementing unique methods. The real deal is for the customers that find out which tea suits their taste buds the best.