Learn About Tea


Varieties of Tea
Said to be the most popular beverage in the world, tea is second only to water. This beverage is made from processing the leaf of the Camellia Sinensis plant. There are three major types of processed tea:

1.Green Tea & White Tea, which are
2.Oolong Tea, which is semi-fermented
3.Black Tea, which is
fully fermented

Each of these types of tea are categorized further to differentiate the process of manufacture and thereby their characteristics. For example, in Black Tea we have the Orthodox and CTC varieties of tea. The primary difference between these two types of tea appears at that point in the manufacturing process when the green leaf is subjected to rolling (in orthodox) or cutting/crushing (in CTC) for the purpose of exposing the enzymes within the cells of the leaf in order to facilitate the process of fermentation.

Whatever the type or category of tea, the process of manufacture begins in the field. The result of the production depends on the quality and condition of the fresh leaf that has reached the factory. The right leaf must be picked, transported quickly and must not be bruised, to achieve best results. From hand rolled tea, before China started commercial manufacture centuries ago, to mechanized modern manufacture today, the care and skill required is no less.



How tea is made.

      à    Harvesting  More commonly known as 'Plucking',

à    Withering

à    Processing

à    Fermentation  

à    Drying

à    Sorting & Grading

à    Packing

à    Quality Control     

à    Vacuum Packing



Tea Tasting

In order to prepare teas for tasting, the dry leaves are laid out in containers on the tasting table. The dry leaves (carefully weighed depending on the size of the tasting cup) are put into brewing mugs. Boiling water is poured into these mugs and covered with a lid. The brewing is carefully timed for 5 minutes. The brewed tea (liquor) is then poured into tasting bowls, and the infused leaf is tipped onto the lid of the brewing mug. The taster slurps the liquor, quite like a wine taster does, then rolls the liquid around his mouth to assess the flavour, strength, briskness etc., before spitting it out into a spittoon. The taster also takes into account the appearance of the dry leaf, the infused leaf and the colour and brightness of the tea liquor.

It takes about five years, at a minimum, to train as a tea taster and thereafter it is a continuous learning process. The tea taster, has, over years of very specialized training raised tea tasting from a science, to an art. He or she has honed all the five senses to act in unison to form subjective and objective decisions on a tea tasted. One spoonful tells the taster volumes about the tea.

Some descriptions from the tea tasters jargon (relates primarily to Black Tea) :
Terms describing dry leaf in tea,
Attractive : Well made with uniformity in colour and size
Bloom : As opposed to a dull looking tea
Bold : Grains or leaf that are too large for a grade
Brown : Not black, an undesirable colour
Clean : Free of fibre/stalk
Even/Neat : When a grade consists of equally sized grains
Flaky : A flat open leaf as opposed to well twisted or grainy
Grainy : Well made hard leaf
Grey : Undesirable colour, dull
Mixed : When other grades are present in a particular grade
Ragged : Uneven, rough leaf

Terms describing infused leaf
Bright : Lively, as opposed to dull
Coppery : A very desirable colour of infused leaf, denoting good quality
Dull : As opposed to bright
Even : No irregularity in colour or texture
Mixed/Uneven : More than one colour, varying texture

Terms describing tea liquor
Autumnal : To flavour evident, in varying degrees, in teas made during the season
Bakey : An unpleasant taste caused by high temperatures during the firing process
Body : Signifies a combination of fullness and strength
Bright : As opposed to dull
Brisk : A fresh lively taste as opposed to flat
Burnt : Undesirable, due to tea subjected to excessively high firing temperatures
Character : A very desirable quality which allows recognition of growing origin
Colour : Different grades/types possess varying degrees of colour (visual)
Dry : When the tea is fired at a slightly higher than normal temperature
Flat : No briskness, very plain
Green : An undesirable taste, under fired or under fermented tea
Musty : Damaged by moisture
Old : An aged tea, without earlier liquoring attributes
Pungent : Very brisk, a desirable characteristic
Strength/Strong : As opposed to weak, thin.
Thin : Lacking body, strength
Wild : Undesirable, normally associated to end-of-season teas

Tastes in tea vary from one country to another and from one individual to another. Some like tea with a lot of milk and sugar, some will add spices, a dash of lime, salt. Tea is drunk hot and also chilled. There is therefore no recommended method to making tea.

In the hunt for perfection in a cup of tea, Dr. Andrew Stapely, a chemical engineer with the Royal Society of Chemistry at Loughborough University in England, has brought the weight of his scientific knowledge (and shameless personal preferences) to create a formula for 'optimal temperature, infusion and imbibation, and when to put the milk in.



The Perfect Cup of Tea

Step 1. Always use freshly drawn water as water which has previously been boiled will have become de-oxygenated and will not produce such a good liquor.

If possible the water should be filtered to remove the chlorine and other additives that affect the taste. Softened water will also produce a better liquor.


Step 2. Use one teaspoon of loose black tea per person plus one for the pot. Warm the teapot first to ensure a better brew.


Step 3. Once the water reaches a rolling boil it should be poured immediately onto the tea leaves, as over-boiling will again de-oxygenate the water and produce a flat liquor. Tea brews best at 100 degrees Celsius.


Step 4. To give the best brew, leave the tea to brew for between 3-5 minutes, covering the teapot to keep the heat in.



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