Do you ever wonder how tea is made? What process involves that would turn fresh leaves into dried loose leaves? Are there different processes being used that contribute to the distinct characteristics that separate green tea, Oolong teas, and black tea? In this article, you’ll learn the detailed tea-making processes illustrated by six diagrams.
Let’s start with the most widely available black tea and increasingly popular green tea. In the first diagram below, you can easily compare the processes that are applied to green tea, but not black tea. For example, green tea does not go through the withering process, but instead straight to fixation, leaving the leaves no chance for oxidization and thus able to preserve a much higher level of catechins, a type of antioxidant. Additionally, black tea requires fermentation that further sets off chemical substance to react, turning the color of leaves from green to red.
Even different processes are used to produce grade-level and non-grade-level of black tea. The key difference between these two grades is whether the leaves are kept in whole or being shredded. Screening is absolutely required and normally a second twist rolling is needed to ensure consistent quality of the black tea. On the contrary, inferior leaves typically go through only one-time twist rolling since they are meant to be shredded later and often packaged into tea bags so are not easily for naked eyes to discern. Therefore, tea makers do not bother to screen them in order to save cost.
As introduced in the earlier blog of this series, Oolong teas have the oxidization levels that come between green tea and black tea; therefore, it’s not surprising that making Oolong teas involves processes that can be found in both black tea and green tea. For example, indoor withering used in black tea and fixation in green tea are both used in Oolong teas. This enables the leaves to oxidize at various degrees, but also stops the leaves from continuing to oxidize fully at the timeframe planned by tea makers.
Across all Taiwan Oolong teas, sun withering is applied. But compared to twisted shaped Oolong such as Pouchong and Bai Hao, balls or pellet shaped Oolongs such as Alishan, Jin Xuan, Dongding and Tieguanyin, will go through rolling and drying twice rather than one.
I hope you would have a fresh perspective next time when you look or shop for different types of tea, that it does require much more work and processes than you may have assumed to get a tea from a farm to a market.