Friday, 5 February 2010

Ceylon Bop Uva-what a name, eh?

Going back to Sri Lanka in my mind today. Firstly to talk about the Ceylon Bop Uva that I’m drinking this morning, but then I want to go a bit into tea processing.

With this kind of tea the higher the elevation of growing, the better quality the tea. So many of the best locations for tea growth have names of Sri Lankan mountains. The Uva region is on the eastern side of the island and appears to have the tea plantations nearest the capitol Columbo.

Almost every source I found encouraged one to drink Bop Uva with milk, so after a few sips of it black, I followed their directions. It’s as advertised-spicy and relatively mild. I wouldn’t want to drink this tea every day, but it is a good, light alternative to the dark teas I normally like. Maybe if I had guests who weren’t into tea, I’d try this as a nice introduction. Not much more to say about it. It’s certainly better than any bagged tea I’ve had. By a long shot. Also makes me think of a Cyndi Lauper song I can't remember the exact name of.

What I really want to talk about though is the way tea is processed. The term that’s used repeatedly when talking about black tea is “fermentation”. When I first started reading about tea production, this was the word that dumbfounded me. Fermentation? Really? But when they talk about it in relation to tea, it means something entirely different from sour-mash whiskey.

After withering the tea leaves with large blowing machines, they are cut. This is where the fermentation starts. A long time ago, I read that if this process is handled poorly, the tea can actually grow mold and become toxic. I’ve never heard of that happening, so I suppose they’ve perfected this process and control it relatively stringently. The factors in this process include how long the cut leaves are allowed to ferment, as well as the humidity and temperature of the room.

Once the tea has been fermented adequately, it is then fired. At first I thought this was like roasting coffee, but that’d kill the tealeaves. The leaves are heated lightly to moderately. In other teas, such as Oolong, where you start firing the leaves, stops the oxidation. The shorter the time, the more like green tea it is. But black teas are 100% oxidized. All the way baby.

I’m sure I’ll explain this process in a more detailed refined way, once I understand it better. Although it’s a brief overview, I’m wondering if any of you out there knew about the sensitive and particular way that tea is processed.

As I turn back to my mug of Ceylon Bop Uva, I notice that it’s cooled. Am off to fill it and add a bit more milk.

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