Friday, February 29, 2008

Full-Leaf Tea Production on the Rise

It looks like the surge in popularity of full-leaf tea in the US, Russia, and Europe is making a major impact on producers' behaviors. According to a recent article from Reuters, orthodox tea production in India is on the rise and is being encouraged by the government-run Tea Board with a subsidy of 3 rupees per kg of orthodox tea produced. At present, many tea plantations in India (particularly those in Assam) produce CTC tea. Orthodox production involves the hand-plucking of tea leaves, which means that the whole leaves can remain intact and that the best new shoots can be plucked without also plucking older leaves and stems. CTC can produce a stronger flavor with a shorter brew time, but is generally a less nuanced and a much lower quality tea.* Most Indian CTC tea is consumed within the country, whereas most orthodox tea is for export.

*Despite this difference in quality, innovative Indian cooks can do amazing things with CTC! I had the best masala chai of my life when I was in Kolkata, and most of it was made from CTC. At one hotel near Darjeeling, I talked tea with the "tea boy," who had created an extensive, widely varied, and delicious tea menu out of both CTC and orthodox teas, as well as blends.

All this talk about Indian chai has me even more excited about my upcoming tea tour to India! More details on that soon to come...

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