All you need to know about : TEA

All you need to know about : TEA

May 02, 2022

According to a Chinese legend, tea would have been discovered accidentally by Shen Nong, a Chinese emperor who reigned around 2737 BC.

One day, it is said the emperor fell asleep under a tea tree. While resting, a few tea leaves fell into his cup of hot water.

Upon awaking, he tasted the improvised drink and was seduced by its sweet and tonic infusion. He would have then ordered the cultivation of this plant across the country. 


What is Camellia Sinensis?

The tea plant is a shrub of the Theaceae family, native to eastern, western and southwestern Asia. There are two major varieties: Sinensis and Assamica.

Camelia Sinensis is native to South East China. It would have been discovered more than 4000 years ago! In the wild, this shrub can reach up to 3 meters in height. For the best harvest, they are cut between 1 and 1.5m. This variety is used for the production of white, green, oolong and black teas.

Then there is the Camelia Sinensis Assamica. It comes from the North East of India and surrounding countries and can reach up to 15 meters in height. Again, to facilitate the harvest of the leaves, they are cut between 1 and 1.5m. In comparison to Sinensis, the leaves are only used for the production of black tea.

Cultivation

As you might expect, tea plantations are typically grown in tropical and subtropical regions. This is because they require an abundance of rain and sunshine, temperatures between 18 and 30°C and ideally a humidity level between 75 and 90%.

Normally, tea plants grow at altitudes of 800 to 2000 meters from sea level. The high altitudes favour the growth of the plant.


Harvesting

Handpicked, the plucking of tea leaves begins before sunrise.

Depending on the region and the tea in question, plucking can be done all year round. They are done in rounds of four to fourteen days, while the tea plant renews itself. Once picked, the leaves are sorted before moving on to the next stage.


Wilting

This step consists in reducing a certain percentage of humidity in the leaves. There are two ways to proceed: in the open air or by machine. Depending on the type of tea desired, the leaves will pass through one or both of these methods. (They will be specified later in the article).

Free Standing:
As soon as picked, the leaves begin a spontaneous and natural oxidation process.

The leaves are spread out in the open air on several bamboo grids allowing them to lose the desired percentage of moisture.

By Machine:
The machine balances the heat and the air flow that circulates among the leaves which allows to decrease more humidity to the leaves.


Oxidation (mechanical)

Mechanical oxidation is used for black tea processing.

The leaves are exposed to humid and oxygen-rich air to promote a chemical process. Upon contact with oxygen, the enzymes contained in the leaf oils cause enzymatic oxidation.

Enzymatic oxidation is the browning of food in contact with oxygen. It allows to obtain the flavor, the strength and the color of the tea according to the desired taste profile.

Black teas: 99.999 % oxidized


Stopping Oxidation

In comparison to black tea (oxidized) and white tea (non-oxidized), producers stop the oxidation process of the leaves to produce green and oolong teas. It aims to neutralize the enzymes responsible for the oxidation of the leaves.


Rolling

The leaves are heated at high temperatures for a few minutes in basins. The heat makes the leaves soft.

Then, the producers roll, fold and twist the leaves by hand as needed. Alternatively, the leaves are put into a mechanical rolling machine.

This step also contributes to reduce even more of the moisture.


Roasting

The purpose of the roasting process is to dry the leaves and develop their aromas. To do this, two methods can be used: commercial or traditional.

The commercial way will use machines designed for this step. The traditional method is done in baskets with the help of charcoal.


Sorting

After all the processing, the final step is the sorting of the leaves. It consists in separating the leaves by size.

The more uniform a batch is, the better its quality is considered.

 

White Tea


Stage 1. Withering (in the open air)

High quality withering:

  • The leaves are spread on the ground at 3 cm height.
  • Duration: 36 and 48 hours.

Low quality wilting:

  • The leaves are spread on the ground up to 30 cm high.
  • Duration: 72 hours.
  • Moisture loss: 70 %.

Stage 2. Roasting
Roasting at 90 to 100 °C until only 6 % moisture remains.

View our complete White Tea Collection 

 

Green Tea

 

Step 1. Withering (in the open air)
Duration: 4 to 6 hours. Moisture loss between 10% and 15%.

Step 2. Oxidation stop
Duration: 3-5 minutes at +/- 300°C

Step 3. Rolling and drying
Duration: 20 minutes. Moisture loss between 5 % and 6 %.

View our complete Green Tea collection

 

Oolong Tea (50-80% Oxidized)

Step 1. Withering (mechanical)
Duration: 6 to 10 hours. Moisture loss: 10 to 15 %.

Step 2. Oxidation stop
Duration: 3-5 minutes at a temperature varying from
400 to 500°C.

Step 3. Rolling
Duration: 3 to 4 minutes

Step 4. Roasting (commercial or traditional)
Commercial method - Time: 20 minutes. Temperature: 130 °C
Traditional Method - Duration: 8 to 12 hours. Temperature : 130 to 150 °C

View our complete Oolong Tea collection

 

Black Tea (99% Oxidized)

Step 1. Withering (in the open air)
Duration: 4 to 8 hours. Moisture loss: 15 %.

Step 2. Wilt (mechanical)
Duration: 4 to 5 hours. Temperature 40°C. Moisture loss: 45 %.

Step 3. Rolling
Duration: 3 to 4 minutes

Step 4: mechanical oxidation

Step 5. Roasting
A few minutes

View our complete Black Tea collection

 

Your Infusion Guide

  • White 2.5 to 3 gr - 80 to 95 °C - 1 to 2 ½ minutes
  • Green 2.5 to 3 gr - 80 to 95 °C - 1 to 3 ½ minutes
  • Oolong 2.5 to 8 gr - 95 °C - 2 to 4 minutes
  • Black 2.5 to 8 gr - 95 °C - 2 to 4 minutes
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