Norbu Tea
About Chinese Tea - White Tea - Green Tea - Oolong Tea - Black Tea - Pu-erh Tea

How Chinese Style Tea is Produced:

Processing the Five Major Chinese Tea Types

Silver Needles - White Tea
Ya Bao - Wild White Tea
Snow Dragon - Crafted White Tea

White Tea: White teas are essentially unprocessed. The tea leaves are simply picked and air dried. Different combinations of sunlight and or low heat are sometimes used to aid the drying process if weather conditions are not optimal at the time of harvest. White teas like Silver Needles are composed entirely of the young buds that are covered in tiny hairs from the tea plants, while Pai Mu Tan style white teas have some buds in them but are composed mainly of large more developed tea leaves. These teas are quite beautiful to look at and tend to be very smooth, light, and delicate in flavor.

Jade Dragon - Yunnan Green Tea
Jin Xuan - Taiwan Green Tea
Jasmine Pearls - Scented Green Tea

Green Tea:  Chinese style green teas involve a little bit more processing than their white counterparts.
  1. Withering: The green tea leaves are picked and withered slightly either in the sun, in a heated space, or just at room temperature until the leaves lose about 20% of their moisture content. Tea leaves fresh from the trees are very brittle, so this step makes the leaves much more supple and allows them to be handled without incurring much breakage.
  2. Sha Qing (kill green):  Next the tea leaves are cooked in some way to deactivate the enzymes that would otherwise oxidize & turn the tea leaves brown in color.  Oxidation is a vital component in the production of black and oolong teas, but not in green tea production; so, the oxidizing enzymes must be neutralized in order to preserve the green color and unique flavor of the tea leaves. In the case of Chinese green teas, Sha Qing is almost always performed in a dry, relatively low temperature wok, and it is sometimes referred to as pan firing, wok firing or pan frying.
  3. Rolling/Shaping: After the enzymes in the leaves are neutralized, the teas are shaped either by machine or by hand into the many different shapes that green teas can take.
  4. Drying:  The tea is then dried and is ready to send to the market. Green teas are consumed relatively quickly after harvest because the attractive qualities of these fresh teas dissipate quickly.

Anxi Tie Guan Yin-Green Style Oolong
Taiwan Qing Xin-Medium Roast Oolong
Shui Jin Gui-Fully Roasted Wuyi Oolong

Oolong Tea: From a processing standpoint oolongs are somewhere between green and black teas. Oolong is the most labor intensive of the types of tea, and the most highly prized oolongs are processed only by very experienced tea masters. Oolong tea is a huge topic because of the many different styles that are produced. The specific varietals of the Camellia Sinensis (tea plant) used in traditional oolong teas come from Fujian and Guangdong provinces in mainland China, but these oolong varietals are cultivated in many other parts of the world today. The general consensus is that the best oolongs come from Fujian and Guangdong on the mainland, and also from Taiwan, where oolong teas are somewhat of a regional obsession.

  1. Withering:  They are picked and withered about like green teas, but the firing step is delayed until later.
  2. Bruising/Shaking & Oxidation: After withering, the tea leaves are rolled or shaken to bruise the edges of the leaves and to release some of the enzymes in the leaves. The release of the enzymes starts the oxidation process. When these enzymes are exposed to oxygen they begin to turn brown in color, much like when an apple is cut open and the flesh begins to turn brown when exposed to the air. This process of oxidation in oolongs is what really brings out their unique flavors and requires the experience of the tea masters to judge when the teas are actually ready. A complex process of further rolling or shaking along with slow and low temperature drying steps takes place until the tea master decides that the tea has oxidized to the point that he or she deems appropriate to the style being produced.
  3. Sha Qing (Kill Green):  Once the desired oxidation level is achieved, the tea is then fired to stop the tea from oxidizing further.
  4. Drying:  Then it is completely dried and in some cases is ready for consumption. The number of oolong tea styles is huge because of the many variables used in processing. They can be very green in color or look almost like a black tea. They can be very tightly rolled little balls or long twisty stripe shaped leaves.
  5. Roasting:  Roasting oolong teas performs several functions.  Primarily, roasting acts as a way of preserving the tea leaves for future consumption.  At its most basic level, roasting simply forces the moisture out of the leaves which could otherwise facilitate spoilage through fungal or bacterial growth.  The happy byproduct of this purely functional aspect of roasting is the creation of complex flavor compounds through the modification and/or caramelization of proteins in the tea leaves.  Greener style oolongs such as the the famous High Mountain oolongs from Taiwan can be roasted  for a short amount of time simply to create a balance between flavor and aroma or emphasize desirable flavors and aromas in the tea leaves.  In contrast to their light roasted counterparts, darker roasted oolongs such as Traditional Tie Guan Yin from Taiwan can undergo a multi-step roasting process that takes many days, weeks or even months to create the desired flavor profiles.
  6. Aging (Optional):  Many tea masters will age a portion of their teas, and aged oolongs are some of the most prized and hardest to find teas around. Aging oolongs is very different from aging pu-erh teas because the oolongs are kept in tightly sealed jars and are low temperature roasted periodically to drive out any moisture that accumulates in the leaves.

Jinggu Gold Buds-Yunnan Black Tea
Imperial Dian Hong-Yunnan Black Tea
Ruby Black Tea-Taiwan Black Tea

Black Tea:  Black tea is the type of tea that people in the west are most familiar with. Black teas are fully oxidized teas, meaning that the enzymes in the tea leaves turn the leaves completely brown during the processing. The teas are picked and withered like the other types of tea. Then they are either hand rolled or machine rolled to crush all of the cell walls in the leaves and release the enzymes that promote oxidation. The teas are then left to oxidize completely or to turn brownish black in color. Once the leaves have completely oxidized, they are then roasted to deactivate the enzymes and to dry the leaves. Properly handled black teas can be kept fresh for about two years after harvest without losing much quality, which is why black tea became popular in the west. It could withstand the long journey from China and later India and Sri Lanka without a discernable loss of quality, while green teas could not. Black teas are produced in many parts of the world today, most notably in India, Sri Lanka, parts of Africa, and South America. Most of the production is done by machine using the British developed "CTC" method or Crush, Tear, Curl, which yields a very consistent and finely chopped end product that looks a bit like coarsely ground coffee. CTC teas are commonly found in teabags under various brand names. The highest quality black teas are not CTC teas (though some CTC teas can be excellent), but are referred to as orthodox teas, meaning that the leaf structures (and more of the desirable complex flavors) are preserved during production. High quality black teas like the highly sought after teas from the Darjeeling region of India are almost always produced in the orthodox fashion.

Pu-Erh Tea
For information on Pu-Erh tea see our Pu-Erh Tea Info section

Norbu Tea Company, LLC PO Box 800697 Dallas, TX 75380-0697

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