Have you ever thought about how to make tea? What process turns fresh leaves into dry, loose leaves? Are different processes used to help separate the unique characteristics of green tea, oolong tea and black tea? In this article, you will learn how to handle them from fresh leaves to final packaging.
Low oxidized high catechin
Let's start with the most widely used black tea and the increasingly popular green tea. Green tea does not undergo a wilt process, but is directly fixed so that the leaves cannot oxidize, thereby preserving higher levels of catechin, an antioxidant. In addition, black tea needs to be fermented to further trigger a chemical reaction to change the color of the leaves from green to red.
Tea processing: black and green
Even different processes are used to produce graded and non-grade black tea. The key difference between these two levels is whether the leaves are whole or shredded. Screening is absolutely necessary and usually requires a second twist to ensure consistent quality. In contrast, inferior leaves are usually only one-time tanning because they are later shredded and often packaged into bags so they are not easily discernible to the naked eye. Therefore, tea factories do not plan to screen them to save costs.
Green Tea [0% Oxidation]: Harvest – > Fresh Leaves – > Manual or Mechanical Fixing – > Tanning – > Drying – > Packaging
Grade Black Tea [100% Oxidation]: Harvest -> Fresh Leaves -> Indoor Withering -> First Twist -> Screening -> Second Twist -> Drying -> Fermentation – > Packaging
Non-grade black tea [100% oxidation]: harvest -> fresh leaves -> indoor withering -> tanned -> chopped -> dry -> fermented – > packaging
Taiwan Oolong Tea
In contrast, oolong tea has an oxidation level between green tea and black tea; therefore, it is not surprising that the process of making oolong tea can be found in black tea and green tea. For example, indoor wilting used in black tea and fixation in green tea are used in oolong tea. This allows the leaves to oxidize to varying degrees, but also prevents the leaves from continuing to oxidize completely within the time frame of the teapot.
Pouchong Oolong [8-18% Oxidation]: Harvest -> Fresh Leaves -> Sun Withering -> Indoor Withering [8-18% Oxidation] – > Manual or Mechanical Fixing – > Twisting -> Drying – – > Packaging
Alishan/Milk/Dongding Oolong [20-45% Oxidation]: Harvest -> Fresh Leaves -> Sun Withering – > Indoor Withering [20-45% Oxidation] – > Manual or Mechanical Fixing – > Rolling Ball – – > Dry first -> cloth ball rolling -> secondary drying – > packaging
Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea [50-70% Oxidation]: Harvest -> Fresh Leaves -> Sun Wither – > Indoor Withering [50-70% Oxidation] – > Manual or Mechanical Fixation – > Softening – > Twist -> Drying – > package
In all Taiwanese oolong tea, the sun is withered. However, compared with the twisted-shaped oolongs such as Pouchong and Bai Hao, spherical or granular oolongs such as Alishan, Jinxuan, Dongding, and Tieguanyin will experience rolling and drying twice instead of once.
I hope that the next time you see or buy different types of tea, you will have a new perspective. It really needs more work and process than the tea you want to go from farm to market.