The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
CTC Teas-From Field to Cup
How They Are Made
There are basically two manufacturing methods for black tea, CTC or cut-tear-
curl, and traditional orthodox leaf manufacture.  Most likely you have been drink-
ing CTC teas for years without even knowing it, as they are primarily used to fill
tea bags.
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ing in color and developing the tea chemicals, theaflavins and thearubigins.

The next step is to stop oxidation of the leaf with firing.  There are several different methods used for firing CTC teas.  
The first method,
drum oxidation is commonly used in southern India.  The chutney is placed inside the drum (think
clothes dryer) for 60 to 90 minutes.  The continuous revolving motion of the drum guarantees that every bit of the
internal juices are evenly spread over every bit of leaf.  Drum oxidation also increases leaf density and creates a
darker leaf, and even granulation of the pieces.

With the next method, continuous oxidation machines, the chutney is fed into the automatic dryer and carried on a
conveyor belt where it passes beneath ultraviolet lamps, which activate the polyphenol oxidase and stimulates
oxidation.  The ultraviolet light also kills bacteria and microbial contaminants.  This method is used in areas with high
humidity and for fast, high volume production of average grade CTC tea leaf.  

                                            
                                                The most efficient firing method, though, is with the Fluid Bed Dryer, which blows the
                                                tea  particles on a stream of hot air (240-250F), reducing the moisture content to just
                                                2-3%.  This method ensures that all the pieces of leaf, no matter the size, are evenly
                                                dried.

                                                After finishing the oxidation stage the leaf is cooled, sorted one last time,
graded, and
                                                then  packaged for storage or sale.

Now that you know the steps involved in making the black tea in your favorite bagged tea brand, it helps you to
appreciate even more the handy, tasty little tea bag you slip into your mug, when sitting down for a quick cup of tea.  
Enjoy.

The CTC processing method
be
gan in the 1950's because of
the increasing popularity o
f tea bags.  Designed
to produce a less bulky tea that would
brew
more quickly and with an even, robust fla-
vor, CTC teas are directly opposite of tradi-
tional orthodox teas, that concentrate on
drawing out unique flavor and style from the
leaf.

CTC teas are less costly to produce, yet
many of the growers producing them are
actually losing money. That's because 95%
of tea produced today is CTC and there is a
glut of tea in the market, driving down prices
for everyone.
The prices have fallen so low, in fact, that many producers can
no longer afford to stay in business any longer and are either
closing or switching over to orthodox tea manufacture.  This is a
smart move as today's tea drinkers are becoming more knowl-
edgeable and savvy about tea, driving the demand for more
specialty orthodox teas.

The production method for CTC
black tea differs somewhat from
traditional orthodox black tea manufacture.  After withering, the fresh leaf needs to be chopped
into smaller pieces.

The blades used to chop the tea are ex-
tremely sharp and fast moving so it's im-
portant that any extraneous materials,
such as sticks or small rocks be removed
before the leaf goes into the machine.

This initial step is called pre-conditioning
and is a combination of sifting and shred-
ding.  A machine called a green leaf sifter
with a perforated, vibrating tray, feeds a
continuous flow of withered leaf through
while separating out any sticks, stones,
or sand.

The sifted leaf then goes into the green
leaf shredder, a cylinder to which very sharp, light, and well balanced knives are attached.  
Rotating at 2,500 rpm's the knives shred the leaf as it goes through.

          To ensure uniform particle size the cylinder decreases in diameter along the length of
          the shaft so all pieces are the same size when they emerge.  This step completes the
          preconditioning.  Next comes a series of two rotorvanes for final conditioning.

          The rotorvane was developed in 1957 by Ian McTear of the
          Experimental Tea Research Station at Tocklain in
Assam,
          India.  The rotorvane is basically a combination tumbler-
          barrel-drum ranging in diameter from 8 to 18 inches.  A cen-
          tral shaft acts as an auger pulling the leaf through as it
          crushes, tears, and mixes the leaf.  This process generates
          heat that continues the enzyme activity inside the leaf,
          spreading the juices to the surface, which begins the oxidation process.

          For final conditioning the leaf is passed through the first rotorvane with an open end
          and only 8 inch diameter, crushing and compacting the leaf.  The diameter of the second
          rotorvane drum is 15 inches with a sieve plate or screen on the end, further squeezing
          and mincing the leaf into what is called chutney.

                                                           With final conditioning finished, the CTC leaf is on to roll-
                                                           ing, where the chutney will be passed through a series
                                                           of four to five CTC rollers.  The mechanical rolling machine
                                                           invented by a man named A. Holle, and was first intro-
                                                           duced, again in Assam,
India, in 1872, at Jorhat. Today
                                                           the mechanical rolling machines are still in use worldwide.

          The rolling machine used for CTC production has two identical stainless steel rollers with
          sharp cutting teeth mounted parallel to one another and attached horizontally.  The
          rollers rotate at different speeds, one fast, one slow, and in opposite directions from
          one another.

          The chutney is fed from the rear, drawn between the rollers and
          chopped and cut into uniformly sized particles.  Because the par-
          ticles are so small there is no clumping, so the step of roll- break-
          ing, needed for orthodox teas, isn't needed for CTC.

          Depending on the climate and location it is at this stage where the
          tea is spread out in thin layers in cool, humid air and left to oxidize
          for 20 to 30 minutes or more.  It's at this point that the tea begins
          to develop the recognizable aroma and flavor of
black tea, darken-
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