Did you know that Turkey, Ireland, and the United Kingdom are home to the world’s biggest tea drinkers? Turkish people drink almost 7 pounds of tea per person per year!
Tea is also one of the most popular drinks in the world, sometimes touted as only second to water. Whatever the statistics might say, tea lovers know how delicious and soothing a cup of tea can be.
Tea aficionados aren’t just interested in drinking tea but in everything related to tea. Are you one of them?
Then, learn more about the tea harvesting process in the article below.
Picking the Tea Leaves
The reason why tea is grown at high altitudes is that gives it a better flavor. You can only start picking tea leaves from a tea plant once it’s four years old, but you can keep picking leaves from it after that for 100 years! That’s a long tea harvesting lifecycle.
If you have seen videos on tea leaves picking, you have probably seen traditional tea harvesters still doing it by hand. The thinking behind that is machine harvesting can damage the tea leaves too much and that can result in poor quality tea.
Also, only the top two leaves and buds get picked during harvesting, since older leaves can have a much stronger flavor. If you wish for a fine quality tea, the best tea leaves are younger ones.
Since women have smaller and more nimble hands, they are usually hired for tea picking season. This is great because it means you are supporting the financial lives and success of women in countries where they might not have many other such opportunities. You can feel good about drinking your delicious cup of tea knowing that.
Initial Drying and Rolling of the Leaves
Tea leaves contain a lot of water. Almost 75 to 80% of a tea leaf is water. All this water has to be removed and dried out.
Why? Because if the water isn’t removed before packaging, the leaves would mold and that wouldn’t be something customers would be happy about.
The leaf drying gets done in stages.
First, the leaves get spread out over a large area on the ground and dried using the sun’s rays and heat.
Then, the leaves are gathered and crushed, to allow for even more water to get evaporated. This is done by rolling the leaves by hand or by machine.
If you are drinking a tea that’s more mass-produced, then they probably used a machine rolling process as it’s more uniform and faster.
Both machine-rolling and hand-rolling give their distinct flavor to the tea that only a tea aficionado would notice or care about.
Fermentation and Final Drying of the Leaves
Once you have crushed the leaves, the oxidation process begins. The leaf begins to ferment. This process gets enhanced by placing the leaves in a warm room with high humidity.
The fermentation process will turn leaves from green to black, depending on the length of time. It takes about 4 hours for green leaves to turn black.
Once again, as the leaves are fermented, they have to be dried. In high-heat rooms, the drying process gets the water level down to 4 to 6%.
Once this gets done the black tea is ready to be sorted by size and packaged.
Some Teas Go Through Fermentation and Oxidation and Others Do Not
You might be wondering how different types of teas are made and get their different colors. Every tea out there is delicious in its way. Let’s look at how each tea is treated differently to get its different color and flavor.
- Black Tea – made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, fully or almost fully oxidized
- Green tea – made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, unoxidized
- Herbal tea – made from infused dried herbs, flowers, and fruits
- White tea – made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, slightly oxidized
- Oolong tea – made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, partially oxidized
- Rooibos tea – made from the dried rooibos plant, partially oxidized
Tea harvesting is a very delicate process that requires attention to detail. No wonder tea harvesting fields are passed down from generation to generation by people who know tea like the back of their hands.
The interesting thing about tea is that, just like wine, the flavor will vary depending on the region that the tea is grown. The flavor of the soil, land, and air is infused into each tea leaf.
Tip: Delicious Tea Brewing Needs Proper Timing
If you are having a hard time brewing the proper cup of tea, no matter how hard you try, perhaps you are not aware that timing plays a big role in this.
For example, black tea needs a water temperature of 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit and needs to get steeped for 2-3 minutes. Whereas, green tea needs a water temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit and only needs to get steeped for 45 seconds to a minute. Oolong tea needs a water temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit and needs to get steeped for 3 minutes.
Once you are aware of all these variations in temperature, steeping times, and more, you will be able to brew the perfect cup of tea for you and your family.
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Tea Harvesting Is a Complicated Nuanced Process
It isn’t enough to read about the tea harvesting process in an article to get the true feel for it. It is something that needs to get experienced hands-on to know what it’s all about.
Until you get to that Assamese tea field though, this article will be able to give you a taste for the divinity that is growing tea.
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