4 Black Tea Processing Methods: Orthodox VS CTC VS Gongfu VS LapSang

HomeTea Knowledge4 Black Tea Processing Methods: Orthodox VS CTC VS Gongfu VS LapSang

Last Updated on 03/31/2020 by Desmond

Black tea sold in many ways, such as loose leaf tea, tea bags, or canned drinks. Have you ever thought about how black tea processing?

Black tea originated in China, which has a history of hundreds of years. Due to different origin regions and types, the manufacturing of black tea also in various methods. 

Orthodox” processing is the most common and basic methods. A large proportion of black teas in the world manufactured in this way, except some countries like China, which got their unique techniques.

Except orthodox, there are “CTC,” “Gongfu” Black Tea,” and “Lapsang Souchong” processing ways. Each of them has its own advantages, and make the black tea world more diversity.

Black tea produced by a complex processing
Black tea produced by a complex processing

Orthodox Traditional Black Tea Processing

  • Picking

Black tea made from the leaves of the tea plant(Camellia Sinensis). Picking is the first step of manufacturing tea. And high-quality black tea, usually made from the most tender leaves and buds, which are the first to third leaves from the twig. As same as green tea.

  • Withering

The picked fresh tea leaves will be sent to the tea factory in the day. Spread out evenly for placing, let the water content evaporate and reduce slowly. Withering makes the tea leaves soft and easy for rolling, and at the same time, some natural chemical changes will happen in the leaf cells.

In the Orthodox traditional way, black teas are typically withering indoor. Ventilation equipment set under the withering place to send more fresh air, even raise the temperature, for a better job. 

Worth to know, withering is a light oxidation process, which is the only process in white tea manufacture.

  • Rolling

The tea leaves after withering will put into a rolling machine for rolling. In this processing, the surface of the leaf will be destroyed, and the juice and fragrance it contented will out to the surface. Also, the shape of the leaves will be rolled in a strip, which is suitable for packaging.

Due to the different ways of rolling and pressure, the flavor of black tea also various.

During rolling, in the result of pressure and frictional, the temperature of tea will rise, and they will form in clumps. Tea master should unfasten the clumps in time and keep rolling, which can cool down tea temperature and makes the rolling run smooth.

For better brewing, packaging, and transportation, black tea will be cut during processing; most of them are cut in the refining step. But the tiny leaves would cut beforehand with a rolling-cutting machine during the rolling phase.

  • Fermentation

Placing the rolled-cutted tea leaves in a wet-warm environment for fermentation, the tea polyphenol it contented will oxidize to thearubigins. During this processing, the green color will get lose and turn to brown. The unique mellow fragrance and taste of black tea begin to form.

  • Drying

Roasting the tea leaves in a high-temperature, for stopping the fermentation and remove the water content thoroughly, makes the leaves dried.

  • Refining

We called the tea leaves after drying “Primary Tea” or “Raw Tea,” which are plucked. It needs choosing, remove the tea stem by hand or machine, to classification according to the quality and size of tea leaves. Then packaging after removing the impurities for selling.

Orthodox Black Tea Processing
Orthodox black tea processing is the most traditional method

CTC Black Tea

CTC is short for crush, tear, and curl, which is a black tea processing method that appears in the 1930s. Quick, low cost, and large yield are the features of it.

This processing way needs to use a particular rolling machine. Tea leaves after withered will send into the device in hours, rolled into tiny rounded granules in a high speed rolling and crushing. It makes the tea easy to leach more juice in a short time when brewing.

In the typical case, 1kg CTC black tea can brew up about 400 cups, but orthodox only about 200 cups. It’s a big gap.

CTC Black Tea Processing
CTC Black Tea is tiny rounded granules

CTC black tea processing is widespread in Kenya and India, where black tea usually uses making milk tea or tea bags. Especially in India, CTC black tea is the primary daily drink of folks, due to its excellent taste and reasonable price, over 90% yield and consumption here. Masala Chai, the most popular drink in India, must brew with the Assam CTC black tea to be best.

Within this habit brewing way, there is a funny phenomenon locally, that the black tea quality depending on the integrating degree to milk. When a customer is going to buying CTC tea, they will try it with milk to check if it fits with the milk fragrance and taste.  

Even the CTC teas have a low price, but tea lovers love it all over the world by its unique, fascinating taste.

Masala Chai brew from CTC black tea
Masala Chai brew from CTC black tea

Gongfu Black Tea

Gongfu black tea is a general method in many regions of China. The processing steps almost the same as Orthodox traditional methods but is more nitpick about the refining.

The teas need passing screening, winnowing, tick, re-baking, blending, to make the Gongfu black tea a tight shape and elegant taste.

Gongfu black tea processing
Gongfu black tea processing

Lapsang Souchong Black Tea

Lapsang Souchong black tea processing method mainly uses in the regions of Fujian Province, China. It said it is the predecessor of the Gongfu black tea method, and they are similar.

During the fermentation, it plus a step called pan-fried, to stop oxidation, and left more tea polyphenol inside. Make the tea it brewed bright-redder, and the taste more mellow.

After pan-fried, the black tea leaves will be rolled again, which named re-roll, to make the tea tighter again. Then bake it with pine to dry again, to form a unique smoked rosin aroma.

LapSang Souchong black tea processing loose leaf tea
LapSang Souchong black tea processing loose leaf tea
Just a tea lover. Like to try different types of tea. Do not matter if the brewing is perfect, only enjoy the various charming taste.


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