Today we’ll focus on the third and last but probably the most important aspect that determines the taste: the manufacturing process.
All teas have unique methods that showcase the tea maker’s remarkable skill and creativity. While there’s no blueprint to make a certain type of tea, there are certain basic steps to create one. We’ll attempt to explain them in this post and, as always, we’ll try to keep things simple.
First of all, it’s important to understand the difference between tea type and tea kind.
Tea type vs Tea variety
There are six types of tea: green tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong (also spelled “wulong”), black tea and dark tea.
Every tea can be categorised into one of these six types based on how it’s been processed.
Note that the plant variety and the terroir play no role in categorising a tea. But, together with the nuances in the manufacturing process, they do play crucial roles in determining a tea variety. For example, a steamed green tea (e.g. Sencha) is a different variety to a pan-fired (or “panned”) green tea (e.g. Long Jing) although they are the same type of tea (green tea). Likewise, teas from Darjeeling would taste inherently different to teas from Assam even if they were to stem from exactly the same plant and processed exactly the same way. Still with us?
There are about 1,500 tea varieties and they all fall into one of the six categories of tea types.
The graph below illustrates an example of this.
How teas are processed
Now let’s focus on how the manufacturing process determines the type of tea, and the easiest way is with a visual overview:
This might look a bit overwhelming at first, but don’t worry, we’ll delve further into each step of the process over the next few blog posts and that will certainly help make things a bit clearer.
What’s important to understand at this stage is that the above graph is just a generic guideline into how each type of tea is manufactured. Not every kind of tea gets manufactured necessarily exactly that way. Some green teas don’t get rolled, for example. Sometimes teas don’t get sorted!
If you’re interested, Tony Gebely’s tea processing chart shows the minimum number of steps required to make a certain type of tea. We used it as a basis, but decided to include all steps for completeness.
Do you have any questions or is there anything you’re interested in learning more about? Please let us know in the comments section below!
At Taste for Tea we are developing an innovative and fun subscription programme, to get you to engage better with tea and understand it in all its fascinating nuances.
Pre-register at tastefortea.com so we can let you know when we go live, and avail of our current 15% early-bird discount!