Know your teas

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

A typical scene from the tea gardens of North-East India

In this post I thought I must share with you a bit of my knowledge about Teas which I gained on my frequent trips to the hilly regions of Darjeeling & the numerous Tea estates I visited in Assam & the Nilgiris.

All along in Mumbai I was used to CTC and tea dust which every Maharashtrian drinks with great pride. CTC is the end all and be-all for the Marathi Chai drinker. I too was one of them. Until suddenly, I was thrown into the world of teas. Names such as Oolong, Green blends, Orthodox, Handplucked, First flush kept circling me during my trips to various tea estates and my head used to reel with confusion. Today, of course, I can smell a Tea and tell you its quality by its texture, feel, shape, fragrance & colour.

No matter what the terms are that people in the Tea industry use each tea variety comes from the same leaf - Camellia Sinensis. The difference in tea comes not from the variety of plant or tree but from the way it is processed and prepared after harvesting it.

While there are more than 2000 varieties of teas in the world, they can all be classified into the following 4 categories:

  1. White teas (No oxidation, subtle in flavour. The finished tea leaves are a soft grey color, consisting only of the bud and two top leaves from the shoot of the plant)

  2. Green teas (Less oxidation, steamed or pan-friend, leaf remains green and retains most of the chlorophyll)

  3. Oolong teas (Semi-oxidised, more steps in manufacturing process and complex to prepare. Each step of the manufacturing process can alter the taste significantly. The leaves are either rolled or balled up. Oxidation can be varied to seem like either a green tea or a black tea)

  4. Black teas (Oxidized heavily and are strong & malty to taste. Common in the market and are the ones which are graded usually as OP, FOP, BOP, TGFOP etc. The more crushed or broken down a tea leaf is, the stronger and more oxidized it becomes.

What is the Masala Chai?

The famous Masala Chai of India is actually a blend of the black teas with medicinal spices and herbs. It becomes potent and is akin to any ayurvedic cure. Extremely beneficial herbs such as Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Adrak(Ginger), Mint, Jaswandha(Hibiscus) etc are mixed and blended in right proportions alongwith Cinnamon, Cloves & Nutmeg to produce the most aromatic flavours of teas. Orthodox blends of all types – Oolong, white, green or black – have a delicate flavor. CTC(Crush, Tear, Curl) teas have a generic taste and produce dark, strong liquor having a distinct astringent flavor. If you want to have masala chai or want to add milk to tea, then CTC is the best.

Teas of Panchatattva Foods are sourced from the farms which use the best practices in farming - Orthodox & conventional - to cater to the different tastes of our consumers. Of the four grades - Leaves, Broken, Fanning & Dust - it is the leaves which command a premium in the market. While the leaves sell for as much as Rs.8000-15000/- in the markets, the other varieties range between Rs.100 - 500/-.

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