How is tea harvested?

Teas are harvested differently depending on the region. Often in Africa, but also partly in China and Japan, tea is harvested at the plantations by means of machines. This works fully automatically.

However, the traditional images of pickers (this activity is usually performed by women) walking down steep slopes with heavy baskets on their backs and picking teas by hand are still commonplace in higher-priced teas. And that pays off later in terms of quality!

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“Two leaves and a bud,” you may have heard that before. This traditional, high-quality picking technique involves harvesting the two front, fresh leaves (two leaves) and the bud. The taste suffers from too old leaves. These are always included in the tea during mechanical harvesting. So it definitely pays to invest in good tea.

Depending on the type of tea, the production carried out after harvesting differs.

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General traditional production

First: The withering

First, the leaves are wilted. The leaf material must now dry. This prepares the sheets for the next step, rolling.

Second step in tea production: rolling

In rolling, the sheet is rolled in large rotating barrels or rubbed with metal plates. The cell sap leaks out and reacts with the air. Often this step is called fermentation. However, the term is not quite right. Chemically, it is an oxidation, i.e. a reaction with oxygen. Fermentation occurs when the cell sap would react with microorganisms or enzymes. But this is only the case with the tea specialty Pu-Erh.

Now comes the magic: the tea oxidizes

Now the tea, regularly controlled by tea masters, oxidizes to the desired degree. Different tea varieties have different levels of oxidation. Black tea is completely oxidized. Oxidation darkens the green-brownish leaf.

In the case of green tea, oxidation is completely prevented. This is done by steaming or panfiring. Steaming involves exposing the green tea to hot steam. Panfiring , on the other hand, involves heating the tea in iron pans over fire. The heat of the pan or steam prevents oxidation by destroying reactive substances of the cell sap.

With semi-fermented tea, you might think the oxidation process is 50% complete. However, this does not necessarily have to be the case. For semi-fermented teas, oxidation may have stopped somewhere between 20% and 80%.

The drying

Finally, the sheet material is dried again to remove the residual moisture. This is important because otherwise the tea would mold later during the cargo run.

Sorting the tea into leaf grades

Now the tea is sorted by leaf size. The classes range from so-called broken teas such as fannings, i.e. the finest tea dust and dust, to leaf teas. Brokens are usually used for tea bag production. The small particles have a larger surface area than whole leaf teas, providing a more intense flavor with less tea.

Incidentally, the leaf grade does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the quality of a tea. The sheet varies only in size, the quality is the same.

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