How Tea is Made

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After water, tea is the most-consumed beverage in the world. The different types are determined by the degree to which the producer lets the harvested leaves oxidize before drying them. Green tea, for example, is barely fermented, whereas black tea is greatly fermented. Oolong falls somewhere in between. It’s a semi-oxidized tea fermented more than green tea, yet less than black tea. Its taste, aroma, and color, from light yellow to dark red, vary according to how the tea leaves are processed.

This amber oolong produced in Thailand has a rich, smooth roasted taste. Like most teas, oolong is made from the leaves of a flowering plants species called Camellia sinensis. Harvest time is during the plant’s peak growing season, which in Thailand is from May to November. how tea is made. Workers handpicked what’s known as the flush. A grouping of two young lives and a bud, which grows out the top of the plant. At this time of year, the plant produces a new flush every seven to 15 days. An experienced tea master directs every phase of the process, the first step of which is called solar withering. Workers bring the leaves into a glass-roofed building then spread them out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes.

This kick starts the oxidation fermentation process, as the chlorophyll enzymes inside the wilting leaves start breaking down. At the same time, the moisture inside begins evaporating. Workers keep moving the leaves around to ensure a thorough exposure to the sun. Then they gather up the leaves for step 2, indoor withering. how tea is made. The leaves lie on bamboo trays for six to eight hours, were gently stirred every two hours, they oxidize further. Step 3, disruption. The leaves go into a rotating drum. As they tumble, they bruise and tear. This breaks down the cell structures enabling oxygen to penetrate deep inside, greatly accelerating fermentation. This also releases the leaf juices which help throw out the taste of the tea.

How Tea is Made

When the tea master determines the leaves have sufficiently oxidized, they stop the oxidation process by tumbling the leaves and a gas-heated dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This fourth step of the process is called fixation, because it fixes the oxidation at the desired level, which can be anywhere from 8% to 85%, depending on the variety of oolong in production. This is the most critical part of the process because it determines the team’s taste, aroma, and color. how tea is made. The next step forms the tea leaves into tiny pellets. First, workers shake the leaves on a sieve to filter out the dust-like particles. Then they bag the leaves in a cotton cloth and place them first in a kneading machine then afterward in a rolling press. Kneading and rolling the back twists the leaves inside into tiny pellets. Forming these pellet shapes intensifies the flavor of the tea, and when the tea is steeped in hot water, releases that flavor slowly.They repeat the sieve, kneading, and rolling cycle up to 35 times until the tea master is satisfied with the result.

how tea is made

Then and only then does the final step begin.Firing.They transfer the tea to an oven in which it undergoes three drying cycles of 20 minutes each at a temperature of approximately 210 degrees Fahrenheit. This dries the damp tea, reducing the moisture content to the target level of less than 5%. The firing also brings out the fragrance. how tea is made. The traditional way to brew oolong is in a clay teapot, using about 2 teaspoons of tea per cup. Ideally, the water should be 190 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Steeping time is from 3 to 10 minutes, and you can brew the same leaves up to five times.

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