A Sign of a Poorly Processed Tea

When you can’t tell if a tea is “orthodox” or “CTC,” it’s a sign of a poorly processed tea. This one from Red Label is a prime example. Here is what we saw after the latest steeping:


There are teas that are considered “orthodox,” basically they are processed according to methods passed down through generations and involving a lot of hand labor. And then there are teas that are called “CTC,” which most tea vendors say means “Crush, Tear, Curl.” The leaves are put through machines and processed into a shape that is similar to the breakfast cereal called “Grape Nuts.” I tend to like both styles of teas and do not advocate one over the other. Each has its merits. However, seeing what looks like both styles mixed together just indicates that shortcuts were taken or the staff was not knowledgeable, or just plain sloppiness. Not that Red Label is a premium brand or anything, but still, a better standard than this is expected. Or am I being picky? No, maybe just spoiled. Whatever.


Typical of CTC style teas, this one from Red Label steeps up dark reddish brown. The flavor is rather astringent, so milk, sweetener, and a box of Walker’s shortbread were needed. Heh heh! (Okay, so I only ate one of the shortbread cookies with the tea.)


Personally, I don’t mind the mishmash of leaf shapes here – some CTC and some orthodox – but it does indicate room for improvement from the vendor. Either new equipment or better training for those operating it. Just my 2 cents’ worth.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text


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