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The Story of Tea


All teas start with plucking fresh leaves. The young leaves of the tea bush are hand-plucked to select only the finest quality leaf-grade teas.

With a few exceptions all Peet’s teas are “fine-plucked”. Fine plucking is the practice of taking only the top two leaves and a bud from each shoot. The finest potential flavors and aromas are concentrated in this youngest growth; making fine-plucking, one of the first steps in selecting the best quality teas for Peet’s.

Coarse plucking uses the coarser more mature leaves, lower down on the shoot, which cannot deliver as fine or complex a quality due to their having more cellulose and woody structure and therefore less of the components that develop aroma and flavor during processing.

Since all tea comes from the same plant (camellia sinensis), it’s the different processing that results in a wide range of flavors in the cup and provides us with the five categories of tea: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. The different processing steps for tea are listed below. Not all teas go through all of the steps. The following pages list the exact steps for each tea category.

Overview of Tea Processing Steps

  • Picking/Plucking – all tea starts with picking the leaf
  • Withering – initial drying of bruised or torn leaf to break down leaf to liberate juices
  • Fixation – heating to prevent or halt oxidation
  • Rolling – leaves formed to shape of desired tea
  • Oxidation – also called fermentation, leaf enzymatically broken down
  • Drying – done by many ways (sun, pan-fired, baked, air drying) to finish the leaves
  • Curing – secondary oxidation /fermentation
  • Grading- – improve appearance, consistency of leaf size and taste

Black Tea Processing Steps

  1. Picking
  2. Withering
  3. Rolling
  4. Oxidation
  5. Drying
  6. Grading

Green Tea Processing Steps 

  1. Picking
  2. De-enzyming
  3. Rolling
  4. Drying
  5. Grading

White Tea Processing Steps 

  1. Picking
  2. Withering
  3. Drying
  4. Grading

White tea is spread thin on bamboo racks indoors for drying. The wind movement adjusted by shutters on the exterior walls to control the process.

Oolong Tea Processing Steps

  1. Picking
  2. Withered
  3. Rolling
  4. Oxidation
  5. Drying
  6. Grading

Some oolong teas are placed into large sacks and slowly rolled by machines

Pu-erh Tea Processing Steps

  1. Picking
  2. Withered
  3. De-enzymed
  4. Rolled
  5. Oxidation
  6. Dried
  7. Fermented
  8. Graded
  9. Re-steamed
  10. Re-dried
  11. Aged

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