How Is Tea Produced? Answered

Are you wondering “how is tea produced” before it is packed and sent to your doorstep? Read on to find out.

Tea production line - How is tea produced

Have you ever asked yourself why loose leaf tea has a more easy-going taste than tea bags? Or what happens after the tea leaves are harvested?

Tea leaves undergo some more stages after being harvested in spring or summer.

At the factory, it is then categorized, withered, oxidized, and dried at the factory. Dig into this simple breakdown of how tea is produced if you’re wondering how people take care of each stage before giving the tea its finest flavor profile.

How Is Tea Harvested?

Most teas go through the harvest cycle beginning in spring and summer when young leaves and buds put on a fresh flush, signaling the best time for plucking. Usually, farmers will pluck off the two youngest leaves and the bud of each branch up to two inches of the tea plant and keep them in a wicker basket before transporting them to an on-site factory.

Over there, the leaves are weighted and appraised to ensure they all come out with the same quality. One of the key factors that affect the appraisal is the shape of the leaves as broken leaves are discarded. At the end of the first step, typically, only a quarter of the initial tea batch remains for production.

workers collecting tea leaves
Tea leaves are weighted and appraised to ensure they all come out with the same quality

Each country and tea region has its method and standard to qualify the leaf quality based on the size, colors, and appearance. They are also categorized into different types of tea, such as white, green, black, or oolong tea during this step. For example, the youngest leaves and buds are used to make white tea, while some others are for oolong or Pu-erh teas.

How Is Tea Withered?

“Withering” is a special term in the tea-making industry. Tea leaves are withered in large troughs fitted with wire mesh within 12 hours. At the end of the cycle, 70% of the water content is removed to release the natural juices and activate enzymes before fermentation.

Tea leaves are rolled or shaken during the withering stage. This is when the Orthodox Method and the Crush Tear Curl Method (CTC) come into play.

The Orthodox method is a traditional hand-rolling approach that allows the leaves to wrap around themselves and break down their cell walls. Essential oils and moisture content packed inside the leaves can escape, leaving a pure flavor behind.

Unlike the Orthodox method, the CTC method shakes the leaves in huge rollers, which usually break down into fine bits used in teabags.

Between the two techniques, the Orthodox method preserves the shape of the tea at its best and keeps the flavor intact. Meanwhile, the CTC method is more affordable but results in a less flavorful tea.

How Is Tea Oxidized?

Oxidation happens when the leaves are exposed to the air to dry and get dark. This specific step plays a crucial part in defining the flavor, aroma, and strength or body of the tea.

Greener tea is less oxidized while black teas are oxidized for the longest. Therefore, the easiest way to identify the oxidizing level of each type of tea is by looking at the colors.

How Is Tea Dried?

Drying is one of the last steps in the tea-making process. Drying preserves the quality of tea for long-term storage. It’s basically “packing” the flavor and aroma after going into a dry chamber. In the chamber, they set up the air temperature very high at the beginning and rapidly cool it down. 

Dried tea leaves in a separate box
Drying preserves the quality of tea for long-term storage

During this stage, they can either pan-fry or oven-bake the leaves. Pan-frying is a traditional technique when the workers keep tossing them continuously while making sure the heated pan doesn’t burn their hands. Meanwhile, oven baking uses a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes before cooling it down to let the leaves dry out a little more.

How Are Different Types Of Tea Made?

Now you’ve got a breakdown of how tea is made. But is it true that all teas are produced the same way?

Well, simply put – they will select different types of buds or leaves before processing them in a unique fermentation process to deliver a distinctive tasting profile. Therefore, each kind of tea you see in the market today is different in color, caffeine content, and strength.

Let’s go over some of the most common types of tea in the world to see how they set themselves apart from each other.

  • White tea is made of young leaves and unopened buds while green tea uses whole leaves to produce a lighter flavor and more subtle aroma.
Twinings of London Fujian Chinese Pure White Tea
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  • Primarily grown in the Fujian Province of China
  • Made without artificial ingredients
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12/06/2022 10:11 pm GMT
  • Oolong tea undergoes a partial oxidation process that takes longer than green tea but shorter than black tea. Therefore, oolong tea goes by a medium tasting profile and color.
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Six boxes of 20 Pure Oolong tea bags. Discover the unique taste of this warm, savory tea. See packaging for steep times.


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12/07/2022 03:51 am GMT
  • Chinese Pu-erh tea needs one more specialized step after oxidation called fermentation. This method allows Pu-erh tea to develop healthy probiotics and polyphenol with a full-bodied rich flavor, and dark color.
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  • Bagged Tea
  • Premium Organic Full-Leaf
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12/06/2022 10:01 pm GMT

You might like our round-up of the best calming teas if you love tea. 

Drinking Tea The Right Way: Essential Tips

  • Don’t add boiling water to the pot; otherwise, you will burn the aroma-packed leaves. White tea blooms best at 149°F (65°C) to 167°F (75°C.) It’s 167°F (75°C) to 185°F (85°C) for green tea and up to 203°F (95°C) for black tea.
  • Pre-heating teapot is a myth. It’s only necessary for heavy stoneware or china teapot.
  • Taking the lid off the pot while brewing tea lets the oxygen interact with the leaves.

Loose leaf tea tastes better than tea bags as it has a wider surface area to brew. Therefore, the loose tea you’re drinking out of a teapot has a rounder, full-bodied flavor.

Author

  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing copies about everything drink-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea.