Tea production and processing methods vary widely depending on the intended end product. Orthodox tea and CTC tea are two distinct styles of tea production widely used in India. Here, we explore the differences between these two styles.
Orthodox tea is loose leaf tea produced using traditional methods, which includes plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation, and drying. The intent of orthodox tea production is to preserve the singular virtues of the leaf resulting in fermented tea leaves.
Tools and methods of production in orthodox tea making are more traditional, time-consuming, and require a lot of human intervention. Every batch of plucked leaves is treated to a precise amount of withering, rolling, and oxidation determined by trained tea professionals to extract the best flavors from the leaves. Great care is taken in rolling and handling the leaves because they are delicate and susceptible to adulteration and damage.
Orthodox teas, be it black, green, white, or oolong, are known for their flavor complexity and delicate make, much the reason why they are highly prized in the world tea market. Freshly produced orthodox tea benefits its drinker in far more positive ways than a CTC tea, especially in regards to health and wellness.
CTC stands for Crush, Tear, and Curl or Cut, Tear, and Curl. It is a method of processing black tea in which tea leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with serrated blades that crush, tear, and curl the tea into small, even-shaped pellets. The intent of CTC tea production is to ensure faster production of a standard quality of tea.
Compared to orthodox tea, CTC tea production is a faster way of producing a standard quality of tea. Fresh, whole leaves are fed into the CTC tea machines which crush, tear, and curl them and process them in a period of just two hours. The resultant tea is an even output of small brown pellets.
CTC tea is generic tasting and produces strong, dark liquor with a distinctly astringent flavor profile. CTC tea also accommodates the addition of condiments like milk and lemon far better than orthodox teas.
Key Differences between Orthodox and CTC Teas
- Intent of Production Orthodox tea production focuses on preserving the singular virtues of the leaf resulting in fermented tea leaves, while CTC is about ensuring faster production of a standard quality of tea.
- Tools and Methods of Production While orthodox tea makers use traditional practices during their tea manufacturing process, which can be time-consuming and require a lot of human intervention, CTC tea manufacturing process is a faster way of producing a standard quality of tea.
- The Flavor Profile of the Tea Compared to a CTC tea, orthodox tea offers the most authentic tea experience. Orthodox teas are known for their flavor complexity and delicate make, much the reason why they are highly prized in the world tea market. CTC tea is generic tasting and produces strong, dark liquor with a distinctly astringent flavor profile.
In conclusion, both orthodox and CTC teas have their unique characteristics and are preferred by different groups of tea drinkers. Orthodox tea is preferred by those who enjoy a more authentic tea experience, while CTC tea is preferred by those who prefer generic tasting tea or those who prefer adding milk or lemon to their tea.