The taste of tea depends on the soil, climate and rainfall where it was grown; as well as harvesting and production techniques. Here are the six steps that create the high quality tea that Trumpers tea is proud to sell – roll over the steps to find out more.
Just the top two leaves and the bud of the tea bush are plucked for the best quality. The ‘plucking round’ – how often the bushes are plucked – varies from five to ten days and depending on the conditions, keeps the bush at a convenient plucking height. The bushes are pruned every three to five years to encourage side growth to increase the number of buds.
The green tea leaves are full of water and are ‘withered’ to reduce their moisture levels and create the familiar flavours of a cup of tea. Withering takes place in long troughs. In cooler climates like Darjeeling, warm air is blown underneath to speed the process, which can take up to ten hours and usually takes place the night after the tea has been plucked.
The withered leaf is cut or rolled mechanically. Traditionally, leaves have been rolled but there has been a swing towards the more modern method of CTC – Cut, Tear and Curl to provide smaller particle sizes for tea bags. All Trumpers teas have been rolled except our tea from Kenya – a country which is relatively new to the tea trade and uses only CTC technology.
The fermentation process is critical to the quality of tea. When the leaves have been cut or rolled, they are exposed to oxygen and ferment, turning brown. This can take from 30 minutes to an hour and it’s important to monitor the changes, as the critical elements of flavour and colour develop at this stage. Tea that is fully fermented often smells of sweet, wet apples.
After fermentation, the tea is ‘fired‘ in a drier to stop oxidation and prevent the leaf from picking up further moisture. As oxidation stops, the leaf turns from brown to the traditional black. Once ‘sealed’ it is ready to be transported.
During the processing of tea, different leaf sizes are created and must be sorted into different grades. The smaller particles, the ‘dust grades’ are used in tea bags and the larger, loose, whole leaf grades are used for Trumpers tea loose leaf blends.