Camellia sinensis is the plant from whose leaves we make tea. If you are amused at how tea can be made with plant leaves or if you are new to the concept of brewing tea, here is an interesting insight into how the leaves of this plant are transformed into various flavors of tea and supplied for the demand globally.
The general tea making process is as follows:
The tea leaves you will first have to grow the Camellia sinensis plants and harvest them firstly. The flavor of the finished tea is directly proportional to the climate, soil and harvesting methods. The growth of tea plants can also be controlled manually to control the tea’s chemical composition. Tea leaves are harvested by plucking by hands for premium packing to preserve the natural sweetness. When the farmers go for mass production they use machines to harvest the leaves. The machine harvested leaves have bold and dark flavors. The whole leaves don’t give out flavors until they have been brewed.
Withering is the first step in the processing of tea. The leaves of Camellia sinensis are thick and is waxy, it needs to be softened or withered to make them suitable for crafting. The leaves are now laid out on mats made from fabric or bamboo until they wilt. Modern farmers with great precision control the process of withering. The Humidity and temperature are controlled and the racks are rotated for proper airflow for every layer.
With the withering process, the different varieties are crafted in different styles. Black tea, Oolong tea, and Pu-erh teas undergo bruising i.e. they are rolled, twisted or crushed. This is done to break the cell walls of the leaves and allow for oxidation.
After the bruising, the leaves are left for oxidation i.e. to turn brown. The leaves are again laid out and left to wither again. The broken cell walls of the leaves give way to an enzymatic reaction that causes the leaves to become brown. Green tea’s crafting doesn’t undergo the above steps and thus retains the green color.
In order to stop the process of oxidation, the leaves are heated. The heat stops the enzymes responsible for oxidation and stops the browning of the leaves. There are other ways to fix the leaves depending on the variety they belong to.
The final step is drying the leaves. This is done to remove any traces of moisture and create tea leaves that are stable for the shelves. In contrast to the heating process, the drying can be gentle to prevent any further flavor changes.
The dried leaves are now ready for the package. They are packed in airtight containers and shipped to all parts of the world. Modern tea crafters are coming up with more ideas for new flavors.