The Chinese refer to this as red tea because of the color of the liquor it produces. Tea manufacturing processes vary from country to country, but there are two basic methods - Orthodox and CTC (crush, tear and curl).
All black teas, both orthodox and CTC, go through a four-stage process:
· Rolling / CTC
· Oxidation / Fermentation
For the production of orthodox teas, once the leaves have been plucked, they are laid out in warm air and allowed to wither for between eighteen to twenty-four hours to remove a certain proportion of their water content and to make them soft and limp enough to roll without splitting the surface.
They are then rolled in a machine that twists and breaks the leaves to release the natural chemicals that later react with oxygen in the air and give the final black tea its characteristic smell and taste.
After rolling, the leaves are broken up and spread out in cool air and 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 hours to oxidize. The chemical reaction that takes place changes the color of the leaves from green to a coppery red color. They are constantly checked and the changing appearance and smell are a guide as to when they are ready for the next stage of firing.
As the oxidation period goes on longer for black teas than for oolongs, the appearance of the final product is much blacker.
To stop the fermentation, the leaves are fired, either in large pans or in oven-like dryers that remove all but the last 3% of the water in the leaf. The tea turns black and develops its characteristic slightly burnt smell and flavor.
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