Tea manufacture is the process of converting young fresh tea shoots into dry black tea. This involves a number of processes from plucking to packing. At the plucking stage, only the top leaf tips are picked every 6 to 7 days. The tip leaves are younger and finer which produce a better quality tea.The fresh green leaves now need to have the moisture removed from them. This is done by blowing air through the leaves for up to 14 hours, leaving a soft and pliable leaf. There are then two ways of treating the tea. Tea which is to be used as loose leaf, will normally be rolled gently to create a twisted appearance.
In contrast, tea which is to be used for tea bags, is shredded and crushed to produce a small granular product. Rolling and crushing the leaves, results in the rupturing of the leaf cells which allows oxidation to occur. This gives the tea its distinctive black colour and flavour. The tea is then dried at high temperatures to achieve the correct taste. When it has been dried, the leaf tea is of differing sizes and will also contain pieces of fibre and stalk. At this point it is processed to remove pieces of stalk which will then leave tea suitable to be sold as loose tea. The tea is passed through varying sizes of meshes to sort it and has to be passed through very fine ones in order to produce tea fine enough for tea bag production. This process of sorting is a harsh one and it can cause the tea to lose some of its flavour. That is why loose tea usually has a better flavour than the tea in a tea bag.
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