If you are not deep in the world of tea you may have never heard that there are such ways of tea production as CTC and Orthodox. But what we definitely have heard from many of Renegade tea drinkers, who were not that much into tea previously, is that the teas they received from Georgia, have a much sweeter and fresher taste than any of the teas they had tasted before. By the end of this article, you might have a better understanding of why it is so.
First of all, let’s break it down real quick- what is CTC and what is Orthodox tea
Orthodox (or handmade) tea making is the traditional style of tea processing, hence the name. This means that the tea is processed by hand or using the help of machines that mimic the natural processes. This is a very flexible method and can be used to make all kinds of tea since there are different procedures and machines involved. The maker of the tea can combine the procedures however they wish each time they make tea and this can result in either white, green, oolong or black tea (or any other for that matter). All the teas from Renegade Tea Estate are made in the Orthodox way.
CTC or Crush, Tear & Curl, is the method developed for making large quantities of black tea with the help of machinery. This is done mainly do speed up the processing and to make the teas more affordable, since the human resources needed are minimal and the production time is much faster than using the Orthodox way. During CTC processing the leaf travels through all the processes on a production line and no additional manpower is usually needed.
Can you differentiate CTC from Orthodox just by the looks?
Usually yes. Since the CTC method is developed to produce tea quickly and get the same taste every time, the leaves are crushed into small pieces and often blended with different batches. Small particles of tea make CTC teas good for tea bags and visually it looks more like small crumbles or dust. The orthodox method, on the other hand, is focused on preserving the whole leaf and thereby the particles of tea are more visible curled tea leaves rather than crumbles.
Are there any taste differences between CTC and Orthodox?
Although the core ingredient is the same - Camellia Sinensis plant - the outcome is quite different. Orthodox teas are known for having more of a layered, bright and brisk taste, whereas CTC teas usually steep quicker, stronger and have very bold tastes and even bitter notes. This is why CTC teas are good for tea bags and are often drunk with milk, sugar or other additions to balance the tastes, whereas orthodox teas are usually drunk independently or with a slice of some citrus to add an extra kick of freshness and vitamins.
Is CTC tea lower quality than Orthodox tea?
Quality overall is, of course, a quite wide term. There are definately good and bad examples of both sides, but the fact is that Orthodox teas require a lot more human attention and are more of an artisan craft. CTC teas can be in high quality too, but this processing method aims to maximize the production levels by producing large quantities at a fast pace while keeping the same standard taste.
As by now you are already guessing- Orthodox teas are generally pricier, mostly due to the fact that processing tea in an old-school way requires a lot of old-school labor, starting from plucking that needs to be done extra carefully (usually by hand) and finishing with the tea master in the factory, who actually needs to be there for each and every tea making. The CTC machines will evenly crush, tear and curl the leaves and process the tea in hours whereas making black tea the Orthodox way can take more than 24 hours.
Every coin has two sides- it might seem simple enough to put labels on the teas, such as CTC is bad and Orthodox is good, but each of those types of tea preserves its purpose. CTC teas are great if you are a fan of black tea with milk or Indian chai. If you want to get to know the pure taste of the tea plant itself, it is better to choose Orthodox options that have a wider range of tastes within them already!
Hopefully, now that you know the difference it will be easier to decide between handmade and industrial tea :)