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Black tea processing: CTC & Orthodox

Aug 9, 2017

Have you ever wondered how black tea is processed? Are there different methods? Well, there are two main processes – one being referred to as CTC and the other, Orthodox. Before we get into the nitty gritty, we thought some images would help. Think about these as you’re reading through, and it might just help you decide which you prefer! And, of course, knowing which tea you want will definitely help you steep a better cup.

The 1st one is CTC and the 2nd is Orthodox tea respectively.

Let’s get into the first method we mentioned - CTC or better yet, Cut, Tear, Curl. The leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers in which they are crushed by the sharp teeth (of the rollers) and then curled into tiny, hard pellets.

Orthodox processed black teas, on the other hand are rolled normally by hand or machine and are whole leaf teas.

Next, we’re assuming you’re now wondering how much tea these two different methods actually produce and the quality of both types, right? We read your mind!

CTC tea production is a faster way of producing standard quality tea. The fresh leaves basically need to be fed into the machine and voila! In a matter of 2 hours, the machines cut, tear and curl them and give an even output of the small pellets. Orthodox teas make use of the traditional practice which is more authentic and time-consuming. Every plucked lot of tea undergoes controlled amounts of withering, rolling and oxidation and the trained personnel try to extract the best flavors from them.

Hence, when we talk about quantity, the CTC method is used more for bulk production as it does not require a lot of human intervention, is machine-made and faster to process. But, when it comes to quality, Orthodox teas provide a more artisanal experience. It undergoes much more controlled production and focuses on preserving the actual worth of the leaf.

Flavor wise, CTC steeps stronger and has a tendency to be bitter. Because of the small particle size, the tea brews quicker and makes a full bodied cup. Hence, if you want to add milk and not drink liquor tea, CTC tea is definitely the way to go! If you want to have traditional masala tea (which most of us know as ‘chai’), CTC is the best option. Assam tea is the most common type of CTC tea.

Since Orthodox teas are processed by hand, the whole leaf is intact and they are of a higher quality. They contain more subtle and multi-layered flavors. They are known for their complexity and are highly priced in comparison to CTC teas.

This should be a pretty good introduction to the two – we hope you feel like you now know the difference! So, the next time someone mentions tea, you’ll be the only one in the room who can use terms like CTC and Orthodox!

Both types of teas are of course available right here on our site, so order your own and try them out. And, then, let us know your favorite!

We’ll give you a little head start – if you think your choice will be CTC, try our Signature Assam or Masala Chai. And, if you’re thinking about Orthodox, we have quite a few options, but our personal favorite is Darjeeling Summer.

Let us know which you choose in the comments! Enjoy!