Orthodox Teas are whole leaf teas manufactured using the traditional process of making tea. CTC Teas are made through the Crush, Tear, and Curl (CTC) process of manufacture producing a granular leaf particle. They comprise of 3 main grades: the brokens, fannings, and dust with dust being the finest particles of tea following a progressive sieving process.
One may ask, typically speaking do CTC tea have more body than Orthodox tea? And is it because of the milk that usually goes into the CTC teas that makes it have more body?
When cupping, orthodox teas are generally bright and brisk and have a multilayered flavor profile. The orthodox grades are lighter than the granular CTC. In fact, the smaller the particle size, the more colour and body it infuses. Because of the small particle size CTC teas brew quicker and makes a full bodied gustier cup than Orthodox tea. So in addition to the milk that is usually added to CTC teas, the fact that CTC teas have a smaller particle size makes it fuller in body than orthodox teas.
Orthodox teas on the other hand depending on the processing methodology can bring out the more complex and subtle multi-layered flavors of loose leaf teas. The grading of loose leaf teas hence can be more varied based on region, type of leaf twist, manufacturing process and even season of pluck.
Why then do smaller particle sized teas have more body than larger leafed teas?
The rolling process can shed some light on this question. The purpose of rolling tea leaf is to rupture and crush its cells. By doing this, the cellular sap is able to come to the surface thereby exposing it to the action of the enzymes in the air. Oxidation begins and liquoring properties such as briskness, brightness, colour, strength, and quality are able to impart itself in the made tea.
In orthodox teas, this process also determines the twist or style of the made leaf. Though in general, a made tea’s quality is determined by their liquoring properties, in orthodox manufacture, there is also a great importance placed on the twist of the leaf. Therefore in this type of manufacture a balance must be maintained between twist and liquoring properties for one is often achieved at the cost of the other.
It is the pressure applied during rolling ( a process where the leaves are rolled in a circular motion between two steel plates) that determines the amount of sap extracted and the twist of the leaf. Rolling is carried out in a scientific way to develop the desirable characteristics of orthodox tea. Appearance can be developed without heavy pressure. Medium to light pressure brings about good twist without cutting or discolouring. The amount of pressure applied during rolling depends on the degree of withering. ( the process of letting the fresh picked leaves to dry out and loose its moisture to make them limp and ready for rolling)
Tea with strength and body requires heavy pressure to maximize the extraction of sap from the leaf. The cell should be fully crushed and completely extracted. This is why CTC tea are of a small particle size. The small size also allows for more surface area for maximum extraction thereby also contributing to the body and other properties of the tea. CTC teas typically go into the teabag. Because of the small particle size, they make for a quick steep and so it is perfect for teabag preparation versus loose leaf, the latter of which requires more time to prepare.
CTC Leaf vs. orthodox leaf
Interestingly, the teabag was invented by accident. Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant sent his tea to his potential customers in silk sachets instead of tin cans. His customers were supposed to cut them open and pour the contents into a pot to steep. But they were confused and just steeped the entire silk sachet in tact in a mug of boiling water. The teabag was born, and has continued to evolve over the years. In 1996 Unilever PG Tips invented the Pyramid Teabag which give the leaves 50% more room to move around than a conventional flat teabag, acting like a mini teapot for the leaves to infuse. Because of the pyramid teabag, whole leaves can be used in teabags too. Thus bridging the gap between loose leaf quality and teabag quality a common complaint among loose leaf tea drinkers that teabag tea flavour pales in comparison to that of loose leaf. The whole idea behind it is you are getting loose leaf quality with the convenience of the teabag.
Conventional (left image) vs. Pyramid Teabag
By Judy Lo