Orthodox – The meaning of Orthodox Teas

Orthodox or the traditional tea-making begins with “withering” the freshly plucked tea leaves. Withering is inducing ( with the help of warm air) the leaf to lose about half its moisture in the course of 12 to 18 hours. At the end of this phase of manufacture, the leaf is limp. This limpness helps the next stage of tea-processing known as “rolling” whose object I s dual: to rupture the leaf cells for releasing the enzymes and to twist or curl the leaf. It is made possible by rolling the leaf in a machine for one to two hours as if it is being squeezed between the palms of hands. Indian Tea has always followed this practice since the inception. The manufacturing patterns are similar yet at times different . Darjeeling Teas , Assam Teas and Nilgiri Teas follow the similar concept.

If the leaf was not limp, more than normal quantity of watery juice would be squeezed when rolling, resulting in loss of essential solids. Fresh or brittle leaf would not ensure a well-distributed rupturing of the cells while rolling. Moreover, limpness enables the leaf to assume the desirable twist or curl.

By rupturing the leaf cells, rolling sets off, though it does not complete, fermentation. To complete the process, the mass of rolled leaf is preserved in a cool humid atmosphere. The total time taken between the commencement of rolling and achieving optimum fermentation is two to three hours, after which the enzymes must be destroyed.

To arrest further fermentation the mass of leaf is exposed to hot air by passing it through a chamber where the air temperature is maintained between 200- 250 degree Fahrenheit. This process which is known as “firing” goes on for half an hour by which time the color of the leaf turns from bright gold to black. After the “fired” leaf has cooled to ambient temperature, it is ready for grading/sorting.

There are now a lot of health benefits related to the growing tea culture around the world . A lot of Tea gardens have started manufacturing various types of loose leaf tea. There has recently been a buzz and a wide interest in white teas , green tea, herbal tea, oolong tea … The brewed teas also have different steeping time(s), and a cup of tea is all that makes one feel enticing . So it is not uncommon to see a pattern where “good tea”- the very definition has changed and now consumers are also shifting from traditional black tea . Tea Drinking  which was once a ritual has now become experimental as well, and we thank the camellia sinensis plant to favour us all.


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