The traditional manufacturing method produces a long wiry whole leaf tea, where most of the processes are done by hand including rolling and twisting. Full leaf tea tends to be lighter and with less body compared to CTC manufactured teas. Great care is taken throughout the process with a lot of human interaction. The tea master follows strict guidelines for growing harvesting and processing to keep the product consistent with the desired style.
Traditional Tea Production Stages:
Plucking – Top quality tea is hand plucked and the best tea comes from the new shoots which are the top two leaves. It takes nearly five pounds of green leaf to produce one pound of black tea.
Withering – The leaves are spread out on long trays in warm temperatures for 12-16 hours so that they lose water (approx. 50% of moisture content).
Rolling -The withered leaves are rolled or twisted by hand
Fermentation -The tea is left open to the air to reach the desired level depending on whether it is an oolong or black tea. Oxidation affects both the taste and the color of the tea.
Drying – After the fermentation stage, the leaves are passed through a drier halting the oxidization process.
Top Grades of Full leaf tea:
Golden Tips are the highest grade of loose full leaf tea.
FTGFOP 1 (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade) – The finest top-grade production with an abundance of tips.
TGFOP 1 (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade).
FTGBOP (Fancy Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe) – A step down from the above grades.
In CTC manufacturing, the withered tea leaves pass between two large rollers that are revolving opposite to one another. On each roller are a multitude of sharp blades set at an angle that mesh with the opposing roller. As the tea passes through this series of blades the tea is cut and torn apart and compressed or curled into little balls. The CTC machines will evenly crush, tear and curl them and process the tea in hours. The resulting tea is evenly processed in size and texture.
CTC manufactured teas are more suitable to tea bagging since they flow more easily to bagging machines. CTC teas tend to be blends of tea leaves harvested from more than one plantation during the first “flush” (harvest). This makes their flavor fairly consistent from one batch to another.