It’s time to bust a few myths, the first being that all black, green, white and oolong teas come from the same plant – the wonderful Camellia sinensis. All of these types of tea are grown on the same plant – its just their manufacture that varies.
Tea is now grown around the world and like wine will vary quite significantly depending on regional varieties, altitude and of course climate and soil conditions. The vast majority of tea drunk in the UK comes Kenya, northern India, Sri Lanka and of course China. If conditions are right, you can grow the hardy camellia almost anywhere – even in the UK in Cornwall!
The variety of flavours from the one tea bush is as varied as the conditions discussed but the manufacturing of the tea leaves can potentially alter whether it’s a good or bad cuppa in a moment! The tea leaves can be damaged if large volumes are passed through the factory in a short period of time, affecting the overall taste and aroma, so the factory manager has a large role to play in successfully producing our great tasting cup of tea!
PLUCKING: Just the top two leaves and the bud of the tea bush are plucked for the best quality. The ‘plucking round’ – how often the bushes are plucked – varies from five to ten days and depending on the conditions, keeps the bush at a convenient plucking height. The bushes are pruned every three to five years to encourage side growth to increase the number of buds.
WITHERING: The green tea leaves are full of water and are ‘withered’ to reduce their moisture levels and create the familiar flavours of a cup of tea. Withering takes place in long troughs. In cooler climates like Darjeeling, warm air is blown underneath to speed the process, which can take up to ten hours and usually takes place the night after the tea has been plucked.
ROLLING AND CUTTING: The withered leaf is cut or rolled mechanically. Traditionally, leaves have been rolled but there has been a swing towards the more modern method of CTC – Cut, Tear and Curl to provide smaller particle sizes for tea bags. All Trumpers teas have been rolled except our tea from Kenya – a country which is relatively new to the tea trade and uses only CTC technology.
FERMENTATION: The fermentation process is critical to the quality of tea. When the leaves have been cut or rolled, they are exposed to oxygen and ferment, turning brown. This can take from 30 minutes to an hour and it’s important to monitor the changes, as the critical elements of flavour and colour develop at this stage. Tea that is fully fermented often smells of sweet, wet apples.
DRYING AND SORTING: After fermentation, the tea is ‘fired‘ in a drier to stop oxidation and prevent the leaf from picking up further moisture. As oxidation stops, the leaf turns from brown to the traditional black. Once ‘sealed’ it is ready to be transported.
During the processing of tea, different leaf sizes are created and must be sorted into different grades. More myth busting at this point as the smaller particles, the ‘dust grades’ are used in tea bags and the larger, loose, whole leaf grades are used for Trumpers tea. Tea bags are not made from the sweepings from the floor but they don’t have the lovely flavours that the larger, rolled leaf have!
GREEN TEAS don’t pass through the whole manufacture process and are more delicate in nature! The leaves are plucked and then either roasted or steamed before being dried to seal in the juices! Buy our green tea here.
OOLONG TEAS are those teas in-between black and green, passing through the withering process but only a light fermentation to keep some of the juicy green tea flavours before drying.
Now to bust another myth – Camomile, Peppermint, Fennel and Nettle are not really teas at all! They contain no Camellia and should therefore just be called an infusion or if you want to be posh – a tisane! They are naturally caffeine free and tend to have health giving properties.
The final myth is that Rooibos is also not a tea! It comes from the plant Aspalathus linearis, a small shrubby bush that has very thin, needle-like green leaves that turn their characteristic red after fermentation. Overlooked for many years but known to have incredible medical benefits for a number of conditions from nervous tension, stomach cramps and asthma to name just a few. Buy our Rooibos and Orange Rooibos here.