FROM THE GARDEN TO YOUR CUP
Most of us start our days with a hot cup of tea.
This beverage is an inherently important part of our lives, especially if you’re from India.
But how much do we truly know about the story of how these leaves make their
way from a tea estate into our kitchen cabinets?
Let’s explore the journey of a cup of tea.
1. The Cycle
2. Growing in Tea plantations
All traditional teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference between green and black teas is the result of processing! Tea is a shrub that grows to over 30 feet tall. However, most tea gardens keep them trimmed to a height of 4 – 6 feet. The tea plant has thick leaves that are dark green in color, and a strong, thick stem. Tea flowers bloom in white or pink and have a delicate fragrance. In India Tea is mainly grown in huge tea estates and plantations in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
3. The Plucking Process
Women usually handpick tea leaves and ‘flushes’ of tea – that is, a terminal main but, with two baby young leaves attached – from the Camellia Sinesis bushes typically twice a year during early spring and early summer or late spring.
4. Weighing the Teas
It is reported that some tea pickers pluck at least 20 kilograms of tea leaves per day. This way they can analyze the yield and growth rate of the tea, and also evaluate how much they can potentially sell.
5. Withering Tea Leaves
The moment a tea leaf is plucked from the tea plant, it begins to wilt naturally, a process we call withering. But once the tea leaves reach the processing facility, this process is controlled by the tea producer. The purpose of a controlled wither is to prepare the leaves for further processing by reducing their moisture content and to allow for the development of aroma and flavor compounds in the leaves. During withering, the moisture content in the leaf is reduced by about one-third to one-half, making the leaf flaccid and pliable. This prepares the leaf for further processing, usually shaping and rolling.
6. Rolling the Tea Leaves
After the withering process, the leaves that are to become black tea are rolled by hand or machine. The rolling process gently breaks and bruises the leaves so that the enzymes are released.
7. Breaking the leaves
After rolling, the leaves are broken and sifted. The smaller leaves are sent for fermentation, and the remaining pieces are put through the rolling process once again!
Tea leaves are placed in a controlled space with a very humid atmosphere, allowing the leaves to oxidize. The duration of the exposure to oxygen affects the degree of fermentation, resulting in darkened leaves. Unlike usual black teas, which are fermented through oxidizing through the natural tea enzymes, pu-erh teas undergo microbial fermentation that involves mould, bacteria and yeast in the oxidization process.
9. Drying process
The leaves are dried with hot air – and it deactivates the enzymes within the leaves, which stops further oxidation. The flavor, aroma and character of a good brew is set during this process, which is crucial.
10. Grading leaves
The dried tea leaves are sorted and graded by size and shape. There are whole leaf grades and broken leaf grades. This is a lengthy, varied process based on where in the world you are based.
The various grades produced by tea estates are tasted by professional tasters. Teas are then auctioned, and over million kilos of tea are sold at weekly auctions all over the world. Note: A cup of tea is usually brewed using 2.5 gms of tea. Next the tea leaves are sorted by size and grade.
After sorting, loose tea leaves are sealed into large tea chests for storage or shipment, where they are bagged and boxed. Tea leaves are blended at this stage to create multiple delightful infusions. Teas are usually sold in Tea Pyramids and also Loose Leaf Canisters all over the world!
To get the best-tasting cup, heat water based on the type of tea you are drinking. Generally, water for black and herbal teas should be boiling (212°F) and water for green teas should be cooler (170-180F). Steeping time varies based on the tea and your taste, but 2 to 5 minutes should be the range for green and black tea bagged teas.
We hope that this guide got you a tad more appreciative about your cup of tea. We’ve picked only the very best for all your steeping needs! Until then browse through our online store for a plethora of teas handcrafted here in India.