Tea Making Process
Regions & Growing
The taste of tea is greatly affected by its surroundings, including soil, altitude, weather and other geographic characteristics. Depending on the climate, certain regions of the world produce more tea than others. Today, China and India produce nearly half the world's tea leaves…more than 100,000 tons each year. Other countries such as Kenya, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Belarus also produce high quality teas. Twinings' expert blenders travel the world, through mountain villages and garden estates, to find teas with the consistent taste, aroma and uncompromising quality suitable to be called Twinings.
Because a tea's flavour depends so highly on where and how it's grown, Twinings buys from tea growers who take great care to create and maintain the best possible growing conditions. Tea bushes are grown in dedicated "tea gardens," and are pruned every four to five years to keep them fresh and at the proper height for the "pluckers" to reach.
Harvesting tea is very labour-intensive and requires considerable skill and expertise. Tea pluckers learn to recognize the perfect moment to pick the most tender leaves, for these are the ones that produce the finest teas. Between two and three thousand tea leaves are needed to produce a single kilogram of unprocessed tea.
The manufacturing process requires the same care and attention as growing to preserve the quality of the harvested teas. Within 24 hours after plucking, leaves are transported to nearby factories to be processed and packed using one of two manufacturing processes—the Orthodox method for loose teas or the Cut, Tear, and Curl method for bagged teas. The steps to each are the same with only a minor difference in the second stage.
This four-step process begins with Withering to reduce the water content of the freshly picked leaves. By passing air through and over the leaves for 12-17 hours, the moisture content decreases by up to 70% and the leaves dry out gently. Rolling, the second step, twists the leaves horizontally until they’re thin and wiry. Carefully breaking the leaves releases enzymes that allow the next step to occur. With the Cut, Tear, and Curl method, the leaves are cut into small, easy-to-pack pieces instead of rolling—without altering the quality of the tea.
The third step, Oxidation, determines how strong a tea is, as well as its flavour and colour. The differing amounts of oxidation determine the tea type: black teas are fully oxidized, oolong and red teas are partially oxidized, and green and white teas are not oxidized at all. The final step is to Dry the leaves with hot air dryers to stop the oxidation process and prepare them for packing and travel. With less than 3% moisture content, the tea is ready to be sorted and packed.
All teas are graded and sorted before they’re packed. Because different sized leaves brew at different speeds, the leaves are sifted into batches of the same size, type, and appearance. Packed into foil-lined paper sacks or tea chests, the leaves are ready to travel.
Blending and Tasting
No two tea harvests are ever the same—even from the same garden. To make sure that every cup of Twinings Tea is up to our standards and perfect for you, our Master Blenders train for five years before heading out to select teas from thousands of estates around the world. The selection process is our way of ensuring that your Twinings experience is unlike any other. And more than just teas—we blend our own herb and fruit ingredients to be sure that our recipes are always unique. Tasting begins with small batches to assess overall quality, flavour and colour of each tea before any are used to create blends for comparison. We compare each new blend against our benchmark for Twinings flavour to ensure complete consistency. That way, your English Breakfast tastes just the way you like (and expect) it to, every time.
After blending, we brew up to 30 different samples using freshly drawn water and copper kettles for exactly six minutes, creating the “liquor” that’s ready for tasting. Our Master Blenders evaluate the colour and clarity of the brews and taste each with special spoons, allowing them to get the liquid to the just-right place at the back of the palate where taste and smell meet. Thanks to their years of training, our Master Blenders can identify the location, elevation and growth characteristics of each sample from just that taste. Their distinctive tastes allow them to detect even slight variations that could prevent a blend from meeting our standards. Only those teas that pass the tests throughout the process make it into our blends—so you get only the highest quality teas.