There are many varieties of tea, but nearly all types of tea, including our Uzuma Meraki and Uzuma Mangata teas, come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. What gives tea its unique characteristics is how it is selected, where it comes from, and most importantly, how it is processed.
All types of tea undergo the same basic steps to prepare it: plucking, withering, steaming, rolling, oxidation, and finally drying. The differences within these steps are what produce different kinds of teas such as black, green, white, oolong, and pu-erh. Let us take a more detailed look at how Uzuma tea is made.
Tea is traditionally plucked by hand. So that the pluckers can easily access the leaves, the tea plants are normally pruned into waist-high bushes. Depending on the type of tea, what is plucked is normally the three youngest leaves on the top along with the unopened bud. After the leaves and the buds have been plucked, they are sorted by size and twigs and stems are removed.
Before any other processing, the leaves are first laid out to wither and wilt for some hours. This is done because freshly plucked tea leaves are quite brittle. Without withering, it would be impossible to roll them as they would just break. When the leaves are laid out to wither, they are also from time to time fluffed and turned over for even air exposure.
Not all types of tea undergo the same withering process. Green teas such as the green tea in Uzuma Mangata are also sometimes steamed, baked, or pan-fired instead, or after a short withering period. With the steaming or firing, the oxidation of the tea leaves stops so that the leaves retain their vibrant green colour.
The next step in making Uzuma tea is rolling. In traditional tea-making and for making teas of high quality, the rolling is done by hand. For some types of tea, such as black teas which later go into tea bags, machines can be used to process the leaves in a process called CTC, which stands for crush, tear, curl. The rolling (or the crushing) of the leaves breaks down their cell structure and releases enzymes and essential oils that give each tea its distinctive flavour. This is also when the oxidation of the tea leaves begins.
After the tea leaves have been rolled, they are left to rest and oxidise for several hours. What happens is that the tea enzymes, which are now exposed, interact with the oxygen in the air, which changes their chemical composition. As the leaves oxidise, they turn a reddish-brown colour. The oxidation of the leaves is also where tea gets most of its unique and complex flavours.
The length of the oxidation process varies depending on the type of tea being made. Some teas are rolled again and may undergo a second oxidation.
The drying or firing stage is the final step in the tea-making process. Heat is applied to the tea leaves, which stops the oxidation process and reduces their moisture content. The drying also ensures that the leaves can be stored without spoiling. Depending on the type of heat applied, firing can also lend some flavour characteristics to the final tea.
You can enjoy deliciously fresh green tea with lemon grass, ginger, and aromas when you brew a cup of Uzuma Mangata tea. If you love black tea, check out our Uzuma Meraki tea that is made with black tea, rose petals, and natural vanilla aroma.