Camellia sinensis, which grows in tropical and subtropical climates, is a flowering evergreen shrub that produces small white flowers; the leaves and buds are ready to be harvested three years after the shrub is planted. Although Camellia sinensis bushes can live for more than a hundred years, harvesting leaves and buds from smaller, younger bushes is easier. Once harvested, the leaves are dried and rolled in preparation for distribution.
The best tea is usually grown at higher elevations, and often, on steep slopes. The terrain requires these premium teas to be hand-plucked, and it takes around 2,000 tiny leaves to make just one pound of finished tea. If that sounds crazy, keep in mind these methods have been around for several millennia.
Teas which are processed in the traditional fashion are called Orthodox teas. Orthodox teas generally contain only the top two tender leaves and an unopened leaf bud, which are plucked carefully by hand and then processed using five basic steps, creating the thousands of varieties of tea we know and love today. Most Orthodox tea production these days involves a unique combination of age-old methods, such as bamboo trays, to allow the leaves to wither on, and modern, innovative machinery, like leaf rollers carefully calibrated to mimic motions originally done by hand. A true art form, the tea is handled by artisans with often generations of training from the moment of plucking to when the tea is finished. For some teas, one batch can take several days of work.
The other way of making tea is the Unorthodox method, of which the most common type is CTC (crush-tear-curl). This much faster style of production was specifically created for black tea. These teas may or may not be plucked by hand. For commercial production, large machine harvesters are used to “mow” the top of the bushes to get the new leaves. CTC production uses a leaf shredder which macerates the leaves (crushing, tearing, and curling them, hence the name) into fine pieces. They are then rolled into little balls. The result looks quite a bit like Grape Nuts cereal, actually. These teas will brew very quickly and produce and a bold, powerful cup of tea. Crush-tear-curl is usually used primarily in the tea bag industry, as well as in India to create Masala Chai blends (due to their strength and color).
Although tea is one of the most enjoyed beverages worldwide, its culture can be very “local.” For example, most tea drinkers in Darjeeling, India have never had (or even heard of) a Taiwanese Pouchong. In China, most people do not drink black tea. The centuries-old Japanese tea ceremony uses powdered, rare Matcha tea, which most folks in black tea-loving Sri Lanka have never tasted.
GLENBERG’S aim is to spread the powerful taste, aroma and health benefits of Indian teas throughout the world and break this LOCAL CULTURE BARRICADES.