Types of tea
- The tea plantation
Tea growing countries
- History of tea
- Tea grades
For black teas the fermentation process is allowed to run its full course. Legend has it that in the 17th century, a cargo of green tea from China arrived in London after a particularly long voyage. During the journey the tea chests had gone mouldy and the tea they contained had turned from green to black. Not great tea connoisseurs, the English enjoyed it so much that they asked for a new delivery to the Chinese…
This first procedure is to give to the leaf pliability for subsequent rolling. Fresh leaves lose 50% of their moisture. The harvest is spread out evenly on bamboo or hessian racks placed 12 to 18cm apart in a room. The room temperature is kept constant between 20°C-24°C with fans circulating air. This process usually takes between 18 and 32 hours.
The rolling of black tea differs from green teas: its objective is not to twist the leaf but to break down its cell structure, in order to facilitate the enzymes reaction of the fermentation. If the leaves are lightly rolled they will produce a mild tea; if they are more twisted the tea will have a more pronounced flavour. Rolling can be carried out either by hand or by machine.
The leaves are sent next to the fermentation room. In these rooms the humidity ranges from 90% to 95% with a temperature from 20°C to 22°C. Ventilation needs to be good however without any draughts. The leaves are spread out in layers of between 4-6cm. Fermentation can last for anything from 1 to 3 hours, depending on the quality of the leaves, the season, the region and according to the strong colour desired.
To stop fermentation the tea has to be brought to a high temperature as quickly as possible. Roasting usually takes place in large, cylindrical drying machines that heat the leaves to an average temperature of 90°C for 15 to 20 minutes.
The next thing that must be done is to sort the tea by grade. The tea is immediately sorted into two grades:
Broken leaves are obtained either naturally when, whole leaves are broken during handling, or artificially by being cut with a machine. Whole leaves are classified according to the fineness of the harvest.
Green teaWhite tea