Freshly gathered Camellia Sinensis shoots are harvested and a method of withering, rolling fermenting and drying, produces the fine teas of India. Black tea makes up 98 percent of the world's international tea trade and is the familiar coloured tea, flavoured with a nuanced aroma and shouldn't have any bitterness. Green tea doesn't go through fermentation and the leaves are heated (roasted in an iron pan/wok or steamed) to prevent fermentation. Green tea laves brew a pale greenish-yellow tea, which is milder and slightly bitter.
During sorting or grading, tea acquires the colourful names that are used in the tea industry. They do not refer to the quality but to the size and appearance of the tea. There are two primary grades - leaf and broken leaf.
- Leaf grades have larger leaves and are classified as Orange Pekoe and Pekoe.
- Broken leaf grades: Broken Orange Pekoe and Broken Pekoe.
Within the broken leaf type there are further divisions which include:
- Fannings are any small leaf teas. They make stronger tea than broken leaves.
- Dust is the smallest leaf size and it's not "dust from the factory floor".
It can take more than five years to train your pallate to being able to taste from one to three hundred teas a day. Most people imagine a tea taster drinking the liquid until they're overfilled, but in reality it's more like wine tasting. A taster will select a large spoonful of tea, slurp the liquid onto the taste buds all over their tongue, savour it, and spit it out.
Blending teas isn't usually done until after a taster has had even further professional training. A specific blend may be comprised of different teas from a number of different tea gardens. A blender's expertise helps to guarantee consistency and ensure tea selected and packaged throughout the year in different seasons and conditions doesn't vary in quality, aroma or flavor.