The Story of Tea from Harvest to Cup

Explore the journey of tea – from harvesting the tea leaves all the way to your morning cup of tea! Learn where our tea is grown and all the stages it goes through.

calming effects of tea

We are proud that all of our Bristol Twenty tea is sourced from sustainable tea farms and through the Ethical Tea Partnership. Not only are our loose leaf pyramid tea bags environmentally friendly, but we also care about where our tea comes from and the people who make it. The Ethical Tea Partnership, a not-for-profit organisation that works with sustainable tea farms to improve the livelihoods of the tea farm workers as well as the environment the tea is produced and the sustainability of the process.

There are two main categories of tea: true teas and herbal teas. True teas are made using the leaves of the tea plant known as Camellia sinensis, including green and black tea. Herbal teas are made from a variety of flowers, spices, and herbs. All true leaves are made using the same leaves, the difference in flavour, colour and strength comes from differences in the production process. 

 Tea plants must reach an age of three years before leaves can be harvested for tea use. The harvesting process is mainly done by hand because it preserves the quality of the leaves. Harvesting tea by hand is a time-honoured tradition in many parts of the world and remains an important part of sustainable tea farms. Once the tea leaves have been carefully picked, they are placed in wicker baskets to be taken to the factory for further processing. 

 There is a different production process for each type of tea. They mostly all follow a fundamental production process; withering, rolling, oxidation and drying. Oxidation is the most essential step in the process for all true teas. Oxidation is a process through which tea leaves are exposed to the air in order to dry and darken, contributing to the flavour, aroma, and strength of different teas. 

Different types of tea and their production processes:

Sustainable tea farm

Step 1: Steaming/Roasting
Japanese green teas are subjected to steaming where hot air is applied in a humid environment to prevent oxidation. In Chinese teas, the leaves are roasted in pans over open fires or in large ovens to prevent oxidation.

Step 2: Rolling
Green tea leaves are rolled into shapes including long twigs, small pellets, and cakes or balls. The tea leaves are not allowed to oxidise after rolling. This preserves the green colour of the leaves and earthy flavours.

Step 3: Drying
The leaves are immediately dried and sorted by grade and shape for sale.

Try our China Green Tea with Jasmine Flower Tea. It is subtly perfumed and intensely aromatic.

sustainable tea farm

Black tea is very popular and includes varieties such as Earl Grey and Breakfast tea. Black tea is the most oxidised of the true tea varieties. 

Step 1: Withering
Freshly harvested leaves are withered in direct sunlight. The leaves are typically spread out on large bamboo mats and left in the sun until the leaves become limp.

Step 2: Rolling
They are rolled to release moisture and enzymes that will react with oxygen in the next step. 

Step 3: Oxidisation
They are left to oxidise until the leaves turn deep brown in colour.

Step 4: Drying
The oxidised leaves are dried using a variety of methods.

sustainable tea farm

Fruit and herbal teas have a different and much more simple production process than true teas. Fruit Tea is made by cutting or grating the chosen fruits into small pieces and then drying them. The teas are produced by blending a variety of dried fruits, and some contain up to ten different ingredients. 

The process begins with roasting the ingredients at low temperatures until all the desired flavours have been extracted. Then the mixture is infused in hot water to distil the flavours. The final product is a flavorful blend of natural elements that impart a unique taste to each cup. 

Bristol Twenty fruit and herbal teas: Passion Fruit Orange Tea, Camomile Flower Tea, Lemon Ginger Tea, Rooibos Tea, Red Berry, Peppermint, Christmas Cookie Tea

sustainable tea farm

Step 1: Withering
The Tea leaves are withered in the sunlight after picking

Step 2: Roasting, Shaping
Leaves are dry-roasted to halt full oxidation and shaped before being left to dry in the sun.

Step 3: Fermentation
The sun-dried leaves are kept in a warm, humid environment and exposed to controlled bacterial and fungal fermentation for an extended period. Once the leaves have reached “ripeness” they are ready to be packed.

Step 4: Pressing
The pu-erh leaves are next mechanically pressed into shapes such as squares, bricks, or spheres. Try our Yunnan Green Tea, it is bright and fragrant with a beautiful sweet and delicate flavour.