There are two methods for processing tea:
The Orthodox Method
The Orthodox method is the original and traditional way of making tea, in which the tea leaves are partially or wholly hand-crafted in a multi-step process. The aim is to preserve as much of the whole leaf as possible in order to produce superior quality tea.
Tea preparation varies based on the type of tea, the regions it's grown in, the traditions of the tea makers, and the culture and history of the tea. It’s a multi-step process that requires time, patience, and skill.
Tea leaves can be sun dried, roasted, pan-fired, steamed, rolled, and more, by hand. These steps result in the highest quality tea with the most authentic flavors of the region it’s grown in. The Orthodox method rewards the tea drinker with the best tasting tea possible.
The CTC Method
“CTC” stands for “crush, tear, curl.” This machine processing of tea was invented in the 1930s, with a focus on efficiency and cost reduction. The tea leaves are machine harvested from large industrial gardens where the land is not artfully cultivated but rather maximized for mass production.
With the CTC method, industrial machinery pulverizes tea leaves, making it easier to speed up the process of machine rolling and oxidation. As the leaves are crushed up, they lose much of their flavor and nutrient potential and more easily release their tannins, which makes for a more astringent and bitter tasting tea.
This processing renders the lowest quality tea, which ends up in mass produced commodity black tea bags. These teas are often blended and filled with artificial flavors to cover up the lackluster taste.