Tea, an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured or fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to East Asia. The most widely consumed drink in the world after water.
Tea is categorized into different types as per the countries who manufacture tea. Extent of oxidizing is the main measurement in this classification.
Hence knowing the basic steps of producing Ceylon Tea is important when it comes to understand the types of tea. Once the tea leaves, ‘two leaves and a bud’ as called by the expertise, the leaves are then delivered to the factory and transferred to withering tables where the moisture of the leaves will naturally reduce to the preferred level of 57%, which will wilt the tea and soften the tea. However, this level could be differed based on the climatic and geographic condition.
Once withered and moisture reduced, the leaves then rolled and twisted to shape the leaves and to bring out the natural essence within the tea leaves. Then the leaves are transferred for fermentation. Also called as oxidizing, while in fermentation, the enzymes inside the leaves will naturally reacts and develops the three main qualities of tea; color, strength and the liquor.
Succeeding fermentation on enhancing the qualities of the tea, next step is to fire the tea in order to dry the leaves and highlight the zests and refreshed the enhanced qualities while on fermentation. Final step at the factory is to sort the tea according to the color, texture and other relevant measurements.
As mentioned above, while in fermentation (or oxidation), as a result of enzyme reaction, forms oxidized tea which is Thearubigin and Theaflavin. As per the level of fermentation/oxidation, tea will be categorized as black tea,
semi-fermented tea, white tea, green tea and post fermented tea.
Black tea is completely oxidized tea which will be made within a day and will not repeat in a single batch. Once brewed, the liquor ranges from dark brown to deep red. Most of the flavoured tea are made using black tea since it’s fully oxidized and hence vast variety of black tea are available. Considering the astringency, black tea is the most popular among tea many tea lovers due to the high astringency black tea offers. The popular milk tea is made by adding milk to a well brewed black tea with preferred amount of sugar. Mostly black tea is used as tea powder to make instant tea
Also called as ‘oolong tea’, this semi-fermented tea is widely used by the people who are new to drinking tea. The process is same as making of black tea, though oxidation will be done partially, which ranges from 8% to 80%. Process of making semi-ferment/ oolong tea is multifaceted, where the fermentation will happen at multiple occasions with rolling. A minor heat is generated during the process to slow down the enzyme reaction which will also reduce the speed of overall oxidation. Occasionally, process takes few days, whereas the final product results in fruity or flowery taste to the tea, with soft astringency. Oolong is mainly manufactured by the high-grown tea manufactures in Sri Lanka, due to the reason that the climate at the upcountry mostly favours the process when making this type of tea
Unprocessed tea using the newest bud of each bush is called White Tea. The leaves are simply plucked and left to dry without any rolling or oxidation taking place. However, a natural oxidation at a minimal level can be happen since the leaves are left to dry for 1-2 days. Due to the oxidation at a minimal level, once brewed the liquor can range from pale green to yellow.
Green tea is mainly consumed nowadays by many people because of the health benefits it offers. In the process of making Green Tea, no oxidation happens. Only the withering, rolling and drying will take place. Also, while withering, steam or pan-firing methods are using to prevent any oxidation. Different type of shapes will be formed to surface different tastes when rolling out the leaves and then the leaves are fired.
A brewed green teacup has the color ranging from green to yellow. The taste of the green tea depends on the withering method used; The tea gives a grassy flavor if the leaves are withered using pan fry, whereas it tastes green flavor if its steam fried. When considering astringency, green tea has an astringency similar to vegetables.
Some called ‘Pu-erh tea’, post-fermented tea has an entirely different process when it comes to making this tea. As usually the leaves are plucked, withered and then rolled. Once finished these steps, the leaves then pressed or made to a dense shape (decorative as per the likes of the manufacture), which called ‘ageing’. Ageing usually takes up from months to quite a few years. Longer the ageing, better the taste of the tea. Taste is mainly based on the bacteria and mold attack during the process, which at the end gives a musty or a woody taste to the tea.