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Tea Classification: By Processing Method - Tea processing is divided into three categories: nonfermented, semifermented and fully fermented. Japanese green tea processing is nonfermented.
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Green Tea Processing: After going through the aracha (crude tea) process with moisture extracted, the rest of the solid portion is ready for transformation into final shiagecha (refined) tea products.
White tea processing and Rooibos Processing is also explained below.
Aracha: Crude Tea Processing - Tea leaves are picked 4 times a year from plantations and classified according to season and other factors. The leaves begin oxidizing as soon as they are picked.
Tea leaves are picked 4 times a year from plantations and classified according to season and other factors. The leaves begin oxidizing as soon as they are picked. Japanese green teas are heat processed (steamed or roasted) while leaves are fresh to prevent oxidation. Leaves are rolled and pressed for shaping, and moisture is extracted so they can be stored. At this point it is called Aracha or crude tea.
Aracha Processing Steps:

Fresh Leaves
Two or three leaves and a bud are picked for sencha while more mature leaves are picked later for bancha. Fresh tealeaves are still alive and breathing which creates heat and causes oxidation.

Air Stirring and Moisturizing
Fresh tealeaves begin fermenting and oxidizing as soon as they are picked. The leaves must be placed in a high humidity environment in order to maintain quality. A moist low temperature is maintained to keep the leaves fresh

Steaming
Steaming the leaves evenly with non-pressurized steam stops the oxidation process and removes the grassy smell, maintaining a rich green color. This process determines the color and quality of green teas. The length of steaming time determines a tea's taste, aroma and color of the liquor. Extra special steaming produces a deep murky green liquid but the color of the tealeaves beccome bright and the level of astringency and aroma are reduced.

- Light steamed sencha requires 20-30 seconds of    steaming
-  Regular-steamed sencha requires 30-40 seconds
-  Heavily-steamed sencha requires 40-60 seconds
-  Special-steamed sencha requires more than 90    seconds
-  Extra special-steaming (which our producer prefers)    requires 120 seconds.

Cooling
Tealeaves loose their fresh aroma and color if they are steamed and left at a high temperature. They must be cooled down quickly and evenly to room temeprature through the use of cool air.

Scattering
After cooling, tealeaves are pressure rolled while dry and hot air is used. Removing moisture from the leaf's surface improves color and aroma. This also makes the drying process more efficient and shortens the primary drying step that follows.

Primary Drying
After scattering, tealeaves are pressed and rolled and hot air is used on the dry leaves. This process softens the leaves and reduces the level of moisture further.

Rolling
The tealeaves are all gathered together and pressed and rolled without heat. Leaves not rolled enough earlier in the process are rolled further. This process levels off the moisture content of the leaves and destroys the tea tissue. This allows the substances within the tea to easily emerge when brewed.

Secondary Drying
Leaves are pressed and rolled while dry air is pumped in. Prior to this step the leaves are still wrinkled, irregularly shaped and still contain a relatively high moisture content. This process unravels the tea, shapes it into a roll, and dries the leaves so that they are easily arranged in the next step.

Final Rolling
Moisture in the leaves is extracted, enhancing dryness. The leaves are then rolled in one direction into a long thin shape peculiar to Japanese green tea.

Drying
After final rolling, tealeaves still contain about 10%-13% moisture. This hot air drying process reduces the moisture level to 5% for long term preservation and increases the flavor of the tea.

Shiagecha (Refined Tea) Processing - During this refining process that our Tea producer stands out. It has developed a unique pan firing process to achieve maximum taste, aroma, color and nutritional benefit.
The tea refining process is designed to accomplish the following objectives: - To create uniform leaf shape and remove powder,   stems, sticks and mature leaves.

- To reduce the level of moisture making the tea    suitable for consumer storage.
- To balance the flavors through leaf roasting    according to consumer preferences.
- To increase the quality and thus the value value of    the final tea product.

The refining process includes the following procedures as teas are blended by flavor preferences:

-
Fire drying
-
Shaping by sifting and cutting
-
Selecting by air and electricity

From here the processes get rather complicated and vary from factory to factory but the key step of pan firing can be catagorized into two styles: Pre-Firing and Post-Firing.

Pre-Firing
All the crude tea is fired together, followed by catagorizing and shaping. This is an efficient method for mass production.

Post-Firing
Our producer favors this more labor intensive method because it produces a more delicious and nutritious product of distinguishable higher quality. Crude tea is first shaped and sorted by shape and weight and then fired by the tea catagory it falls into. This method utilizes low heat for portions containing green colored leaves and applies high heat to the portions that are more flavorful. This uneven form of heating by leaf catagory brings out the best combination of color, taste and aroma. Our producer has five leaf classifications for the purpose of firing:

Leaf Description
 Process
Advantage
Thick & Heavy
firing
aroma & taste
Thin, Long & Heavy
firing
taste, color & shape
Small & Heavy
firing
taste aroma & brewed color
Small & Light
drying
Brewed color
Other Light
drying
Brewed color

White Tea Processing - The production of white tea is different from green tea. White tea leaves come from a special varietal tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha bushes. For white tea, the little buds that form on the plant are covered with silver hairs that give
the young leaves a white appearance. According to the different standards of picking and selecting, white teas can be classified as Yin Zhen Bai Hao (Silver Needle), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), Gongmei (Tribute Eyebrow), and Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow). All of these white teas are widely produced in China and are available in America.The highest-quality white teas are Silver Needle and White Peony, both of which have various grades and are primarily produced in the Fuding and Zhenhe districts of Fujian, China. Silver Needle is carefully hand selected from the tender fleshy sprouts of the "Big White" or the "Narcissus" tea bush. If the buds are selected with two leaves intact, then the resulting selection will be made into White Peony tea. The leaves and other material left over from the selection of Silver Needle and White Peony will be processed into Noble, Long Life Eyebrow. Gong Mei is made from "chaicha" bushes and is processed slightly differently than other white teas. Both Gong Mei and Shou Mei are considered lesser forms of white tea compared to Yin Zhen Bai Hao and Bai Mu Dan.

White Tea leaves are not steamed or pan-fired as is the case in green tea but rather the leaves are withered, hand selected and sun dried. The special nature of white tea's color, leaf shape and hair fragrance is mainly created during the withering stage. If mechanical drying is required the leaves are baked (not fired) at temperatures less that 40’C. Only special ‘two leaves and a bud’ are selected. These leaves must show a very light green almost gray white color and be covered with velvet peach fuzz down. The ideal is a leaf or two being wrapped around a newly developing shoot. These shoots are plucked and segregated from the rest of the leaf being plucked. These leaves are then naturally withered and the painstaking process on final manual selection occurs. "Three Whites" is the primary requirement of the fresh tea material. This means the buds, the first leaves and the second leaves must be covered with tiny white hairs. Be warned that a tea with an abundance of white tips or large buds is not necessarily a true white tea.

According to the different standards of picking and selecting, white teas can be classified as Yin Zhen Bai Hao (Silver Needle), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), Gongmei (Tribute Eyebrow), and Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow). All of these white teas are widely produced in China and are available in America.

The highest-quality white teas are Silver Needle and White Peony, both of which have various grades and are primarily produced in the Fuding and Zhenhe districts of Fujian, China. Silver Needle is carefully hand selected from the tender fleshy sprouts of the "Big White" or the "Narcissus" tea bush. If the buds are selected with two leaves intact, then the resulting selection will be made into White Peony tea. The leaves and other material left over from the selection of Silver Needle and White Peony will be processed into Noble, Long Life Eyebrow. Gong Mei is made from "chaicha" bushes and is processed slightly differently than other white teas. Both Gong Mei and Shou Mei are considered lesser forms of white tea compared to Yin Zhen Bai Hao and Bai Mu Dan.

The quality of white tea is greatly dependent on the season of harvesting. The best white tea is picked in early spring and is subject to numerous requirements. First of all, picking top-grade white tea is prohibited on rainy days or when the early morning dew is not dry. It should never be picked when the buds appear purple; when they are damaged by wind, people, or insects; when they have begun to open; when they are hollow; when they are too long or too thin; when there is one bud with three to four leaves; and when there is frost on the ground.

White tea production is greatly dependent on the weather conditions when the tea is made. Adjustments to the withering stage and the method of bake drying will be determined by tea makers as they interpret the effect the weather will have on the withering process. Temperature and humidity of the environment will dictate the techniques and timing of the withering and bake drying process. White tea that is withered in conditions that are too hot will become reddish, while leaves that are withered in conditions that are too cold will become blackish.

A tea maker's ability to balance solar and indoor withering of white tea is the major determining factor of quality. There are many nuances of white tea production that are dependent on the region and climate where the tea is made, but the major stages in the process are selective picking from specific varietals, withering, careful hand selection, and bake drying.

Rooibos Processing - When rooibos is cultivated commercially, the needle-like leaves and stems are usually harvested in the summer, which corresponds to January through March in South Africa.
The plants are cut to about 30 cm (1 foot) from the ground at harvest time and begin another major growth cycle the following spring. The harvested rooibos is processed two different ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

The fermented type is called red tea because fermentation turns the leaves and the resulting tea a rich orange/red color; this distinctive color led to the Afrikaans name rooibos, which means "red bush." The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants because fermented rooibos loses some antioxidants during the fermentation process. The unfermented type was developed to maximize antioxidant levels in response to recent interest in the health benefits associated with the antioxidants found in C. sinensis teas. Unfermented rooibos tea is a tan/yellow color rather than the rich reddish color of fermented rooibos.

Both types of rooibos tea are available plain or flavored, loose or in tea bags, organic or conventionally grown. Rooibos is graded according to color, flavor, and cut length, with the highest grade labeled "supergrade." The tea has a smooth, non-bitter flavor that is pleasant hot or chilled. The unfermented variety has a very mild "green" taste reminiscent of green tea but without the astringency; the fermented type is quite different, with a stronger sweet and fruity taste. The mild flavor of rooibos has made it popular in multi-ingredient herbal tea blends.


Our tea and tea ware have a variety of certifications:

fair trade label
USDA Organic

ETP Ethical  Partnership
HACCP
ISO 14001

FDA
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