Tea is a popular brewed beverage that can be consumed both hot and cold. It is produced from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. There are also herbal teas that are made from a variety of fruits, flowers, herbs and the leaves of other plants such as peppermint or raspberry plants. Both India and China produces large quantities of tea. Tea is grown in large plantations known as tea gardens.
How is Tea Made?
Tea plants are cultivated from the seeds that develop within the white flowers. Tea grows well in tropical to sub-tropical climates. For a tea plant to be ready to be harvested it must be about 3 to 5 years old. When the tea plant is ready for harvesting tea pluckers pick the leaves from the bush, which is done by hand. The tea leaves are collected and packaged together and sent onto a processing plant. The preparation of the tea leaves at the processing plant depends on the type of tea that is being made. The most common types of tea to be prepared are black tea, oolong tea, white tea, green tea and yellow tea.
Once the leaves reach the processing plant they are wilted and dried. This is done naturally using the sun and/or inside the factory using large heating machines. Once the leaves are dried they are sent for rolling. This exposes the leaves to oxygen and begins the oxidization process. The tea leaves are then sent for drying to stop the oxidization process and ensure that the tea tannins stay intact. The tea is the then packaged and sent out for distribution.
As with black tea, the creation of oolong tea begins with the tea leaves first being dried using the sun and large heating machines to wilt the leaves. They are then tossed in large baskets to slightly bruise them and open them to oxidization. The leaves are then baked in large ovens or pan fried to speed the oxidization process. The leaves are then rolled using large rollers, dried and fired to produce Oolong tea.
White tea begins its journey with the tea leaves being dried in the same manner as leaves are for black tea or oolong tea. White tea is wilted but unoxidized. From here the leaves are sent to be baked to stop any oxidization occurring. They are then lightly rolled and dried.
Yellow tea is unwilted and unoxidized but is yellowed. Yellow tea leaves are not dried in the sun or in large heating machines instead they are sent straight to large frying pans where they are panned to stop oxidization. From here they are allowed to yellow by a process called sweltering. They are then rolled and dried.
Green tea is the most natural form of tea as it is neither wilted nor oxidized. The leaves are sent straight to a steamer without any sun drying. From here they are rolled and dried.