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The difference between CTC and Orthodox Tea

There are two styles of tea production (Orthodox or Non-orthodox, the latter usually being the CTC, or 'Crush-Tear-Curl,' method).

Orthodox tea refers to loose-leaf tea that is produced using traditional (or orthodox) methods of tea production, which involve plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation and drying.

Orthodox Production

Step 1. Plucking: The leaves are harvested by hand, usually ranging between just the unopened bud to the top three leaves and the bud, depending on the tea being created. 

Step 2. Withering: The leaves are laid out to wilt and wither for several hours to prepare them for further processing. Without withering, they would shatter and crumble when rolled and shaped. During withering, the leaves are very gently fluffed, rotated and monitored to ensure even exposure to the air.

Step 3. Rolling: This is where thousands of varieties in tea appearance are created, and also where the process of developing flavour is started

Step 4. Oxidation: After rolling, the leaves are laid out to rest for several hours, allowing oxidation to take place. Oxidation is the process in which the oxygen in the air interacts with the now-exposed enzymes in the leaf, turning it a reddish-brown colour and changing the chemical composition. This step also has the greatest impact on the creation of the many wonderful and complex flavours in tea. The length of this process depends on the style of tea being produced and the ambient conditions at the time

Step 5. Firing: The final step in the production process is to "fire" or heat the leaves quickly to dry them to below 3% moisture content and stop the oxidation process. A good, even drying with very low residual moisture also ensures the tea will keep well.

Grades of Orthodox teas:

Golden Tip – Highest grade comprised of mainly the best quality tips from the stems of 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.

CTC Crush, tear, curl (sometimes cut, tear, curl) is a method of processing black tea in which the leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of sharp teeth that crush, tear, and curl the tea into small, hard pellets. This replaces the final stage of orthodox tea manufacture, in which the leaves are rolled into strips. Tea produced using this method is generally called CTC tea or mamri tea.

CTC Production

CTC or Crush-Tear-Curl production is a very different process. All five steps of Orthodox processing are performed, but much more rapidly and in a limited fashion. CTC was invented specifically for the black tea industry, in an effort to save time (a single batch of tea otherwise can take over a day to produce) and money.

The three basic differences between Orthodox and CTC teas are:

  1. Orthodox production seeks to maintain the integrity of the leaf. The shapes produced vary tremendously, but no matter whether it's green tea, oolong or black, Orthodox processing uses the wholeness of the leaf itself to create a diverse range of flavours in the cup. By contrast, CTC teas do not rely on the wholeness of the leaf.
  2. CTC is produced on a machine which takes fresh, whole leaves and macerates them (crushing, tearing and curling them). The ground up leaf is rolled into little pellets and oxidised. In Orthodox processing, while some tea leaves can look very small at the end, the leaves are never cut or torn apart. They are carefully rolled to produce a certain flavour.
  3. The flavour profile, CTC was invented specifically for black tea production. These fast-infusing teas are ideal for the tea bag industry, as well as for use in spicy chai blends and iced tea (because of the colour). Their flavour is very one-dimensional: bold, powerful and brightly coloured with a pungent astringency. Orthodox teas - because the leaf is not treated the same way - don't produce this type of colour and body.

                                   CTC Tea Grades

Kind of Tea

Grade Name




Broken Pekoe


Broken Orange Pekoe


Broken Pekoe Souchong

BP 1

Broken Pekoe one


Flowery Pekoe



Orange Fannings


Pekoe Fannings

PF 1

Pekoe Fannings One


Broken Orange Fannings



Pekoe Dust




Churamani Dust

PD 1

Pekoe Dust One

D 1

Dust One

CD 1

Churamani Dust One

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