Differences between Orthodox and CTC- the 2 black tea heavy weights

It is a commonly known fact that tea is amongst the top loved beverages on the planet. While there may be special teas like green tea and white tea, black tea is what the majority of people have not just drunk, but also loved, over the ages. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come.

In this article, we take a look at some of the differences between the 2 of the traditional black tea colossi when they are pitted against each other. Both have some similarities, with obvious reasons, and yet their differences are varied enough to give them their own set of loyal and diehard fans. First, we start off with the differences in production before moving on to the other comparisons.

Thought process behind both- while orthodox teas are generally produced to retain flavours and character to the cup quality while CTC teas are commonly produced to give it an all-round finish to the tea. Orthodox tea has an element of human touch (hand roll but not always) when produced while CTC teas are completely machine produced. The basic difference of the teas starts with the different kinds of machinery which is used to come up with the end product.

Art from the start- largely, the finest quality bud with 1 leaf or 2 is plucked for the production of orthodox and hence the plucking is of the highest standard. It is in these parts that most of the antioxidants and flavour are concentrated. The 3rd and 4th leaf are generally considered to be the ones which introduce a certain rough and coarse nature to the tea. CTC plucking is much easier and almost any leaf can be used to make this type of tea unless the leaf quality is unfit for production or will produce tea which is not fit for consumption. The top gardens, though, adhere to equally plucking standards for both variants of tea as the end would not come out as desired if it is not looked into from the start. Plucking is considered the most important part of the tea estate when it comes to the art of making tea.

Moisture- the moisture from the leaves is reduced through a process called withering. While CTC teas may have a moisture content as high as 68%, orthodox teas can go down to as low as 35%. Previously, this used to be done under the sun before but in more modern times, withering troughs with high rpm fans are used. The method of checking the moisture, though, has stood the test of time. Even today, it is done by squeezing the leaves in the palm of one’s hand. Based on how quickly it unfurls, experts can tell whether it has reached the desired level of withering or not. Technically, withering starts from the moment a leaf is plucked out of the tea bush.

Leaf appearance- orthodox tea can get classified as Whole Leaf, Brokens, Fannings and Dust. CTC cannot produce whole leaves due to its Crush, Tear, Curl method of production which, in retrospect, is a very apt name. While the orthodox leaf could be twisted, wiry, open and flat amongst others, CTC teas are mainly granular in appearance and have a slight ragged touch to some of them.

Liquor- orthodox teas are normally much lighter to the eye when compared to CTC teas which tend to have a much fuller cup quality. Without milk, top quality orthodox will have a bright orange type of hue while a top cup of CTC would look more like a ruby red than orange. Also, top of the line orthodox tea is never drunk with milk while all the CTC teas, including the very best in the world, would take in the addition of milk perfectly.

Flavour- the original flavours and taste of the tea gets retained by orthodox teas more than CTC teas. It is understandable since they go through very different methods of manufacture. Black, green, white and oolong can all be classified as orthodox teas while the famous ‘masala chai’ is made from CTC tea.

Price- as can be understood from the above, there are many things which go into the pricing strategy of both the teas and in the end of the day both give out value for the money spent on them.

As can be seen from the above, there are quite a few differences which are not just restricted to the aesthetics of tea. These differences end up giving us two wonderful variants of the world’s favourite hot cuppa. This, is turn, has exposed the world to a plethora of flavours which make the taste buds tingle for tea lovers across the globe.

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