Have you ever wondered why the price of your favourite tea bag is different than loose leaf tea? Or wondered why your tea bag brew just never tastes the same as that bag of loose leaf tea you picked up? The difference in price and quality comes down to the two different manufacturing methods. Crush Tear Curl (CTC) is used when manufacturing tea destined to be packed into tea bags. Orthodox manufacturing refers to the method used when preserving the whole leaf for steeping.
Crush Tear Curl
CTC manufacturing is a mechanical process that creates a granular leaf particle for use in blends and tea bags. Tea leaves, stems and buds are passed through rotating tooth cylinders that chop up the leaves into very small pieces. This step is referred to as maceration and the intent is to ensure a faster turnaround for the production of tea. Originally CTC was used to process damaged or low quality leaf that was deemed unusable, whereas today it is utilized for an efficient way to process tea for tea bag blends. Not only is this manufacturing method speeding up processing times, it impacts the flavour profile of your tea bag brew. The flavour profile of tea bag blends tend to be one-dimensional, powerful, and astringent.
Orthodox processing focuses on preserving the singular virtues of the leaf, resulting in higher levels of aroma compounds and a better flavour profile. The stronger concentrations of aromas are due to the larger surface area of the leaf. Generally, the larger the leaf size, the more aroma compounds are found in the tea. Orthodox teas are whole leaves that are gently processed and separated into differing grades with specific leaf size standards. The leaf is sorted for uniformity and any stems, twigs and broken leaves are removed. The standard flavour profile for orthodox teas are bright, brisk and multi-layered.
CTC vs Orthodox – Black Tea
Let’s use some samples of black tea to further highlight the difference in manufacturing style
Kenyan Tinderet, Black Tea, CTC
The smaller leaf particle creates a darker infused liquor colour. CTC grade black teas tend to be bitter and astringent – so they welcome the addition of condiments like milk & sugar to round out the edges.
Darjeeling 2nd Flush, Black Tea, Orthodox
Orthodox manufacturing of black tea spends more time on rolling and oxidizing the tea leaves. Rolling exposes enzymes and essential oils in the leaf oxygen in the air, making this tea more fragrant. Oxidation has the greatest impact in the creation of the tea’s flavour profile.
Do you reach for tea bags over loose leaf? Or do you prefer the longer steeping process of loose leaf tea? Let us know below!