What do we first imagine when we hear the word ‘tea leaves’? Well, some long magical leaves being served to you in warm water. The rich aroma and the robust flavor touching your soul within a sip, right?
But what about it? Why do we usually associate tea to the long tea leaves that give the infusion? Can tea not be served through tea leaves, not looking the same as you imagine? Well, as a matter of fact, tea leaves can actually be manufactured in several ways, and each way gives it a characteristic brewing technique.
What is meant by tea dust? Tea dust is one of the tea grades produced during the production of tea leaves. Tea dust often comes as the by-product during the tea production process. This grade is known for its characteristic strong flavor profile and quick liquor extraction properties, making it ideal for hotels and cafes.
Tea leaves can be manufactured in different ways. We generally associate it into two primary methods. The orthodox process is one method of manufacturing tea leaves which is the traditional method of tea manufacturing. The other process is the CTC (Crush, Tear and Curl) method.
The traditional method of manufacturing tea leaves uses withering, conditioning, leaf maceration, processing, oxidation and drying. The tea leaves produced in these methods have the characteristic long leaf structure with rich aroma and flavor. This is a relatively expensive method of making tea leaves.
On the other hand, CTC production is a newer method. The steps followed during the production of CTC tea leaves are identical to the orthodox method but vary mostly during the CTC processing.
CTC stands for Crush, Tear and Curl. The name is self-explanatory in the sense that the processing of the leaves follows these techniques one after the other. The tea leaves are first crushed in a crusher. The crushed tea leaves give more surface area for oxidation. The broken leaves can be taken to the following steps of manufacturing.
The crushed tea leaves are then torn. This is done to facilitate the oxidation process. The leaves produced using this method are characteristically black in color and rich in taste due to higher oxidation levels.
These leaves are then curled into pellets. The broken leaves are converted into small hard pellets which are very rich in flavor and aroma. Each of these pellets constitutes the CTC tea leaf. The smaller size of the pellets is quicker to infuse and give out raw, intense flavors.
CTC tea leaves are commercially very viable because of the cheaper rates of production of the tea leaves and the quick and strong infusion it gives.
CTC grades differ from one another in terms of the size of each of these pellets. The size of each pellet in the CTC tea leaf determines the quality of the liquor and flavor it gives. CTC tea leaves are categorized into different grades depending upon the size of each of the pellets.
The size of the pellets has a lot to do with the liquor and flavor it gives. Tea leaves with a larger size of pellets are more robust in terms of flavor. On the other hand, grades with smaller pellet size are known for its quicker liquor extraction properties. Smaller the size of the pellet, faster the extraction process.
Broadly speaking, You can categorize CTC tea leaves into three buckets of different sizes; Broken, Fannings and Dust. Each of these buckets covers various grades in each of them.
While broken leaves and the fannings are widely in circulation due to the value it provides, dust is another great addition to tea’s overall grades.
The dust has the characteristic of releasing the liquor fastest among all the other grades. Well, you don’t even really need to brew dust along with warm water! Just pour a simple cup of warm water over tea dust through a sieve, and you are good to go for a strong cup of tea! Sounds impressive, right?
This property comes handy, specially in case of milk tea. Milk tea requires a strong infusion in order to get its desired result. Dust provides the necessary, more potent infusion in almost no time! This is primarily the reason why hotels and cafes are inclined towards dust for brewing their milk tea. In places where you require the faster serving of a cup of tea, dust is undoubtedly the best option!
How Are Tea Dust Produced?
Dust grades are produced as a by-product during the process of production of CTC tea leaves. While the processing of the CTC tea leaves is carried out, tea dust originates in massive amounts.
These dust are nothing but concentrated tea extracts. The full flavor and the liquor in the tea leaves constitute the dust particles.
Every process of tea production results in wastage or by-product.
Specially during the CTC processing, a lot of dust of the tea leaves are generated. Instead of wasting the leaves, modern factories collect the dust using a conveyor belt running just under the tea processing machines.
The dust accumulated over tea leaves’ production leaves is collected and sorted into proper tea dusts. The quality of the tea leaves determines the quality of the tea dust very naturally.
The quantity of dust produced during one cycle of CTC tea production also varies with the processes used during tea leaves production. Thus, quite the opposite to the popular belief of dust being the lowest quality of tea leaves produced, dust is actually pretty expensive and rightly so.
While you can control the leaves you desire to produce, dust comes as a by-product and not entirely under the control of the manufacturer. Also, the quality is entirely dependent upon the quality of the tea leaves you consider during the process of manufacturing.
There is another very well renowned type of dust tea which is hugely popular around the globe. Yes, it is the matcha green tea. Matcha green tea is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea, typical to many places in East Asia.
Matcha green tea is specially processed because the green tea plants used during the processing of the tea are shade-grown for at least four weeks before harvesting. The growth in the shade forces the plants to produce more theanine and caffeine, which is responsible for the strong characteristic scent of the matcha green tea.
Matcha green tea is consumed worldwide in a different manner compared to the tea leaves or the teabags. These are generally suspended over a liquid, typically water or milk. Brewing the matcha tea can result in an astringent flavor profile which isn’t as appealing to all.
While several dishes are popping up, which use matcha tea and its ingredients to get a new and better variant of the existing food item, matcha is traditionally a very important part of Japanese culture.
The Japanese use matcha tea in their famous tea ceremonies to date. The Japanese tea ceremony revolves around the matcha tea for preparing, serving and drinking hot tea. Matcha tea used in ceremonies is known as ceremonial grade matcha tea leaves, which are generally of much higher qualities than culinary grades of the matcha tea used during regular dishes.
Some famous matcha tea dishes worldwide include some interesting matcha lattes, matcha tea cakes, green tea ice creams and even used for dying foods as mochi and soba noodles. The vast variations of the matcha tea are unfolding gradually, and you might make another new dish for yourself!
Production Of Matcha Tea
Matcha tea leaves are produced with specially shade-grown green tea leaves. The process generally takes more time than regular green tea processing. The tea bushes are covered for long durations to prevent exposure to direct sunlight and grow slowly compared to other green tea grades. This slows down the growth and in turn, cause an increase in the overall chlorophyll levels, which turn the leaves to darker shades.
The process also promotes the growth of the amino acids, especially theanine responsible for the characteristic matcha scent and flavor. The most delicate tea buds are then handpicked.
Once picked, the leaves can be made to go for different processes of production. The leaves may be rolled up before drying into sencha, which is another famous tea grade.
You may lay the leaves out flat to dry, resulting in a crumbled structure of the variant, known as tencha.
Tencha may then be deveined, destemmed and then ground to fine green powder-like texture, popularly known as the match!
Therefore, matcha is another exciting form of the powdered tea leaf, widely accepted worldwide. However, the process of producing matcha tea is very specific and requires longer time compared to other dust tea leaves produced as the by-product during the process of tea production.