Two Types of Loose Leaf Tea

by Imperial Tea Garden March 01, 2018 1 Comment

Orthodox Tea vs CTC Loose Leaf Tea

All tea comes from the "Camellia Sinensis" plant, however, geography, climate, soil conditions, altitude and how the tea is processed are all factors that contribute to the flavor profile and characteristics of the brewed tea. Most people are aware that the level of oxidation of the harvested tea leaves will generalize tea into three basic categories - Green Tea, Oolong Tea or Black Tea.

But there is one more major difference in tea production that greatly affects the finished product.  Traditional Orthodox manufacturing vs CTC (Crush, Tear Curl) tea manufacturing methods.

How They Are Different and Why It Matters

Generally, CTC manufactured tea steep stronger and has more of a tendency to be bolder, stronger and potentially more bitter. Orthodox teas are usually higher quality and less likely to be bitter due to the care taken in harvesting and processing.  Orthodox teas are more subtle and have multi-layered flavors than CTC teas because the leaves steep more slowly and remain fresh longer because less surface area is exposed to degradation.

Orthodox Tea

The Orthodox or traditional manufacturing method produces a long wiry whole leaf tea and follows the historical process of producing a whole leaf tea where most of the processes are done by hand including rolling and twisting.  Orthodox teas tend to be lighter and with less body compared to CTC manufactured teas.  Great care is taken throughout the process with a lot of human interaction.  The tea master follows strict guidelines for growing harvesting and processing to keep the product consistent with the desired style.

Orthodox Tea Production Stages:
  • Plucking - Top quality tea is hand plucked and the best tea comes from the new shoots which are the top two leaves and the bud of this shoot. It takes nearly five pounds of green leaf to produce one pound of black tea.
  • Withering - The leaves are spread out on long trays in warm temperatures for 12-16 hours so that they loose water (approx 50% of moisture content).
  • Rolling -The withered leaves are rolled or twisted by hand
  • Fermentation -The tea is left open to the air to reach the desired level depending on whether it is an oolong or black tea. Oxidation affects both the taste and the color of the tea.
  • Drying - After the fermentation stage, the leaves are passed through a drier halting the oxidization process.
Top Grades of Orthodox teas:
Golden Tips are the highest grade of loose leaf orthodox tea and comprised of the best quality tips from the tea bush.
  • FTGFOP 1 (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade) – The finest top-grade production with an abundance of tips.
  • TGFOP 1 (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade) and TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) – The main grades of fine quality teas.
  • FTGBOP (Fancy Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe) – A step down from the above grades.
Orthodox may not be on the tea label, but if you see one of the above grade labels, it will most likely be an Orthodox tea.  Click the following link for more information on tea grading



In CTC manufacturing, the withered tea leaves pass between two large rollers that are revolving opposite to one another. On each roller are a multitude of sharp blades set at an angle that mesh with the opposing roller. As the tea passes through this series of blades the tea is cut and torn apart and compressed or curled into little balls.  The CTC machines will evenly crush, tear and curl them and process the tea in hours. The resulting tea is evenly processed in size and texture. 

CTC is a popular variety of manufacturing since producers realize higher efficiency and yields. CTC manufactured teas are more suitable to tea bagging since they flow more easily to gravity fed bagging machines. CTC teas tend to be more full bodied and robust and are also well suited to creating blended teas.

CTC tea is less expensive and often lesser quality than Orthodox tea so it is important to known what you are buying and why. CTC teas tend to be blends of tea leaves harvested from more than one plantation during the first “flush” (harvest). This makes their flavor fairly consistent from one batch to another. However, if the tea at the start of the process is good quality, the CTC tea at the end of the process will be good quality.

Knowing which type of tea you are buying will help get the desired results in the brewed cup! If you are planning to buy some Masala Chai (spiced tea), definitely start with a CTC tea. However, if you drink your black tea straight or with just some sweetener or lemon, then start with an Orthodox tea from Imperial Tea Garden and taste the difference!

Imperial Tea Garden
Imperial Tea Garden


1 Response

Csilla Dragu
Csilla Dragu

July 01, 2020

I love all the great information about tea on your website!!! It was exactly what I was looking for and even more! Thank you for putting all this info together. This encouraged me to do some shopping here. I was surprised by the variety of teas you offer.

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