Tea Processes and Techniques

What makes a tea green, red or white? Let’s look at the processes that make teas what they are.


Chinese Tea Processing


The processing techniques are largely similar at each stage, it is the selection of techniques and the degree to which the leaves are placed under that results in the tasty teas that we enjoy. For example, Oolong tea is semi oxidised, whereas red and dark teas are fully oxidised. The first half of the processing technology of oolong tea is similar to red tea, and the second half is similar to green tea.

  • Withering

This process softens the leaves and reduces moisture in harvested leaves. The leaves are laid out in the sun or indoors.

  • Tossing

Leaves are tossed to further break down to aid oxidation. Traditionally, tossing was done in a wicker basket, in modern times, this step mostly done with machines.

  • Oxidisation (Partial and Full)

Encourages the natural process of oxidation by allowing the leaves to rest. The leaves are exposed to air to darken and dry.

  • Fixing

This step involves steaming or baking the leaves to stop the natural oxidation process.

  • Rolling/Forming

Leaves are passed through rollers to break down the leaves, intensifying its flavour and establishing the shape of the leaves.

  • Drying

Stops oxidation by sun drying and/or pan heating.

  • Firing

Leaves are roasted with charcoal or electric heat, this step enhances the smoky or fruity flavour characteristic of the leaves.

  • Piling

This process is usually applicable to Pu-Erh teas, where leaves are heaped into a pile, moistened and covered to facilitate natural fermentation. This further treats the leaves and gives the tea its mellow and distinct dark colour.

  • Steaming/Shaping

More so for Pu-Erh teas, the leaves are steamed and shaped into tea cakes or bricks. This technique encourages vintaging for the tea.