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20 APRIL 2021

From white to black...

Part 2

It is the second most popular drink in the world after water. But how much do we really know about its roots and the different processing stages involved in the preparation of each category of tea? In this article, we will discuss the origin of tea and give you an introduction to the different methods of production that determine each category of tea, offering us a tremendous range of varieties, aromas and flavours that define them. 

Oolong tea

This is the broadest category of teas since it includes teas which, during processing, undergo oxidation ranging from 15%-20% to 85-90%, thus giving them a wide variety of aromas and flavours between green and black. In order to produce oolong, one must use leaves that are fully open, usually until the fourth or fifth leaf.

The processing of oolong is one of the most complex procedures with dozens of variations, however the basic steps are the following: Once the leaves are collected, they are left to wither for a few hours until they become adequately malleable. This is followed by the shaking or tumbling process, which involves the gentle shaking or tumbling of the leaves in order to activate their oxidation from the outside to the inside. This is the most important stage in producing oolong and it is traditionally done in large bamboo trays, although the use of machinery is currently more widespread. The number of times the process is to be repeated and the intervals between are decided on by the craftsman. Once the leaves reach the desired oxidation stage for the type of tea, they are given the desired shape and are then dried. Depending on the type of oolong produced, one or more rounds of leaf roasting may follow.

Black tea

Known as black tea in the West and as red tea in China, thanks to the bronze and reddish hues of its liquor and wet leaves, black tea is one of the most popular categories of tea worldwide. Black tea is fully oxidized. Once the leaves are collected, they are left to wither for a few hours until they are soft and ready to be rolled, either by hand or using special machines, in order to break their cellular structure and achieve oxidation. Once the desired degree of oxidation is achieved, the leaves are roasted and sorted by size.


Pu'ehr tea

This is the most unique of all categories of tea. During processing, the leaves undergo a fermentation process, which also continues during their storage, thus changing both the appearance of the leaves, as well as the flavour and aromas of the tea. Pu’ehr tea is produced exclusively in Yunnan Province in China, from trees of the assamica variety. It is available in loose-leaf form and compressed in the shape of a disc, nest or brick.



It is divided into two large categories: sheng or raw and shou or cooked. In order to get sheng pu’ehr – very much like the processing of green tea – the leaves are heated after harvesting so as to prevent oxidation while still keeping certain enzymes in the leaves alive in order to continue the fermentation process during their storage. With time, and given that the tea is stored in suitable conditions, the tea matures and acquires its unique character. In order to produce shou pu’ehr, fermentation is achieved in an artificial manner by creating suitable moisture and heat conditions. This process was developed in the 1970s in order to meet the high demand for pu’ehr tea. 




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