Production Methods Cupping Event Results …. Week 1

photo credit: Georgia rayan

photo credit: Georgia Rayna

The same tea leaf can be processed in basically two different ways. The leaf can be manipulated in such a manner as to retain more if not all of its natural shape. During this manufacture, small pieces may break off or at some point the whole leaves may be intentionally broken. This is the way tea has been made for centuries and is known as the Orthodox method. Alternatively, the leaf may be intentionally shredded in specialized machines where the leaves are Cut, Torn and Curled (CTC). This process is of relatively recent creation and is designed to be more brewed cups of tea per weight of leaf than Orthodox usually provide. The resulting smaller particles usually yield a stronger infusion with potentially shorter infusion times and cooler water temperatures.

In this Cupping Event, 10 pairs of teas were evaluated. Each pair contained one Orthodox and one CTC tea from the same factory. One pair was from Kenya, one from Assam, India, one from Sri Lanka, one from Yunnan, China and one from Anhui, China which, unlike the other pairs was green tea. Cuppers follows modified professional cupping procedures and recorded their impressions and comments. Professional cupping procedure calls for intentionally stronger concentrations so as to detect more elements in the flavor. After making their comments on the full strength infusions, Cuppers were also encouraged to prepare the samples at a more pleasurable strength though these comments were not required to be recorded. Further, many Cuppers re-infused the samples and noted the differences from the first steeping. Week 1 included the Kenya and Assam teas. Following are the Cuppers comments with preference rankings on the four attributes of dry leaf appearance and aroma and infused aroma and taste.

Sample #001 - Kenya - CTC
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Very small particles like tiny grains of sand. Dark brown/black, jagged shape. Not smooth/symmetrical. Dull color no luster.
- Extremely fine cut, more like a coffee grind. Very dark brown
- almost black. Cut and color are very even, show little variations
- Tiny dark brown - black granules of varying shapes.
- fine pellets, dark grainy, black/brown, uniform
- bright brown, uniform cut, very small but not dust
- Small uniform appearance like poppy seeds. Light weight. Black in colour
- Mostly black, clean and uniform cut into small specks.
- sand like grains of deep uniform brown color, size of grains appears consistent
- grainy very fine, dark brown almost black

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Mild, light, earthy with hints of sweetness.
- A warm, subtle sweetness.
- Fresh / Sweet / Spicy / Fruity
- sweet chocolate
- floral, bright, earthy, pleasant - Deep, earthy
- Sweet and floral. Typical black tea aroma, nothing that stood up in terms of dry leaf aroma
- winey and fruity
- vegetal and floral (some vanilla)

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Medium brown cake of small particles. Still fairly dull color.
- Reddish brown, very sticky. The wet leaf clumps and sticks together. Has a 'gooe'y feeling.
- Copper / Uniform / Compacted
- uniform, dull
- bright, lighter reddish brown, plumper
- Clumpy, sticking together
- Very uniform and slightly compacted
- like coffee grounds or rich potting soil
- brown

 Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Must, light spice. Strong with some wet fur notes and light edge.
- Medicinal, metallic.
- Bright / Stewed raisins
- sweet, full
- a little musty, not as pleasant as dry
- I thought the aroma was smokey with a full slightly meaty aroma
- Floral and slightly musty. Deep aroma
- sour aroma but with sweeter baked fruit notes as well
- dried fruit (dark-red plum), cake, some vanilla

Liquor Color:
- Very dark brown / amber. Thick.
- Dark brown but clear. It did turn cloudy after the liquor cooled
- even without refrigeration
- Clear, orange-red liquor.
- Deep, Reddish Brown
- dark reddish brown, not clear
- The liquor was reddish brown, fairly dark, not very clear and slightly dull
- Reddish brown
- bright mahogany or cherry wood, deeply colored
- copper red, bright

- Strong and astringent (expected). Cooked raisins like toasted raisin bread. Strong nutty element. Some creamy rich notes linger in the finish.
- Thin. Unremarkable. Bitter at first. The flavor comes later but is still rather flat.
- Sour grapefruit flavor that hinges on bitter. Puckery mouthfeel.
- Astringent, Deep, Full (A Milk & Sugar Tea)
- floral but not pleasant, brisk, bold, astringent, a bit burnt, dry aftertaste lingers
- It tasted malty on the roof of my mouth, but also astringent with a lingering bitterness on the back of my tongue
- Very astringent, rich and somewhat bitter
- sharp and brisk but not unpleasant, some chocolate and malt notes, not nearly as astringent as I had feared it might be. Seems very balanced.
- sweet, bready, dried fruit, some vanilla, astringent

- Not very well balanced. Strong taste with lots of character. Nutty note is nice though astringency is too strong in 1st infusion. In 2nd infusion, the nutty notes remain. Taste is not as astringent. Hints of sweetness come through.
- Noticing the age of the plants and the time since last pruning, I wondered if that made a difference in the flavor. Considering the fact that there are more harvests in the climate
- almost constant plucking
- I'm not sure this would make a difference. But I have heard that aggressive pruning stimulates the plant.
- While the aroma of the dry and infused leaf is pleasant, the bitter, sour flavor is not. It has a puckery mouthfeel with a drying effect.
- Will stand up well to Milk and Sugar
- 2nd steeping - less aftertaste, less astringent. It was an in your face tea without a good taste. I didn't like it.
- The high astringency and bitterness might be due to the amount of tea used in the infusion since CTC is meant to extract more color and flavor quicker.
- Temp: 180 F | Altitude: almost 6,000 ft. Water boils at a lower temperature
- Overall, this was a pleasing CTC. I think it would do well in conditions where you don't have control over water temperature like when going out to eat. I'd pick this up to keep in DIY tea bags to take with me places.
- for "Leaf appearance" the ranking is relying on a comparison between all types of tea (orthdox and ctc) or in comparing only CTC samples ?

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 1 2 3 4
Leaf Aroma 1 3 3 3
Liquor Aroma 3 4 3
Liquor Flavor 2 1 2 3 2



Sample #002 - Kenya - Orthodox
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Large whole black leaves. Twisted and long. No buds and some stalk. Mix of sizes with some chunky pieces.
- Thin leaves. No twist. Very dark. Somewhat dull color
- Dark brown
- black wiry, cut, and some golden tips.
- Broken, Clean, Curly, Ragged
- long straight slightly twisted, dark brown, dull color compared to CTC #1
- Black, wiry leaves were straight but slightly uneven in length. Contains quantity of stem
- Deep black and some golden pieces. Uniform leaf size
- short to medium twigs, mostly uniform in color as a dark brown, some stems or grass present?
- even, long pieces dark green, well twisted, tips and stalk

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Deep, earthy, dried forest leaves, woody. Light cooked fruit sweetness.
- Dusty dry. Very subtle sweetness
- Fresh, but very little smell.
- Sweet- Honey
- floral, a bit musty
- The aroma was much lighter compared to the CTC method but also slightly earthy
- Sweet and smooth floral notes. Soft aroma
- mildly fruity with some mustiness
- vegetal, dried fruit (plum)

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Large choppy pieces. Some green tint in the otherwise dark brown leaves. Still fairly uniform size. Fully opened.
- Reddish-brown. A lot of stem. Most of the leaf remained closed
- did not open out.
- Copper, slightly iridescent unfurled cut leaves. Lots of mid-veins present.
- Bright, Broken, Uneven
- light brown, leathery, small leaves, stems and half leaves
- The infused leaves were brown and looked to be torn.  The stems became more prominent when wet.
- Bright and uniform leaf, open leaf, sign of a good steep in terms of time and temperature
- colors vary when wet from red, to brown to olive. Very pretty
- nice dark brown pieces

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Light edgy character. Strong with bready notes and hints of spice. Wet fur with floral sweetness. Hints of tobacco.
- Medicinal, metallic. Less aroma than the same leaf as CTC.
- Spicy, fruity.
- soft
- almost sweet, not musty, less floral
- The wet leaves had a surprisingly bright and fresh aroma
- Mellow, floral and bright
- sour overripe fruit
- cake, dried fruit and vanilla

Liquor Color:
- Bright red/brown with golden tint.
- Coppery, reddish-brown. Clear. Unlike the CTC version, this liquor remained clear as the liquor cooled in the cup.
- Orange, clear.
- Amber Vibrant
- dark amber brown, a bit clearer than CTC #1
- Attractive, light amber colour, with a bright and clean appearance
- Reddish brown
- A clear golden amber
- orange bright

- Milder than sample 001. Not as complex. More subtle but still some hints of spice. Earthy notes but less sweet. Some floral notes. Clean and clear. Some astringency in the finish.
- Dry mouthfeel, slight bitterness in the beginning – after taste is smoother and lingers Still thin. Lack of complexity might make this good for a heavily blended tea where other flavors need to dominate. Unlike my CTC sample cupping, this brew remained clear.
- Weak, dull flavor with slight astringency.
- Malty, Sweet, Toasty, Lingering
- smooth, weak but pleasant compared to CTC #1, slightly dry aftertaste
- Fairly weak, caramel flavour, mellow with a sweetness at the back of my mouth
- Full bodied, deep flavor and low astringency
- Surprising floral notes and very mild. Apricot as well. Smooth and pleasing.
- sweet, cake, dried fruit, vanilla a little bit astringent

Comments: - This tea had a noticeable pasty taste. Perhaps some taint by packaging or foreign element? Plain without much character. Over all, a plain but drinkable tea. Pasty taint was distracting. Generally well balanced though no outstanding features. Nice, smooth finish.
- What a great example of the difference between a super-fine CTC where flavor and color are quickly infused but whole leaf brings out more character in the flavor and a better color in the liquor. I was surprised that there was such a difference in the cloudiness as the tea cooled. Very interesting.
- This would be a very easy tea to drink without additives - sugar and cream would overpower it. The flavor is very mild, but also very dull.
- Stays too long on the palate
- 2nd steeping - leaves opened more, hint of vegetal, slightly musty, little to no flavor.  Enjoyed this tea. Hard to believe #1 and #2 are the same leaves, same everything, except one is CTC and the orthodox process.
- This is my second preference out of the first for samples. I thought that the dry leaf aroma was very light without much depth, and the liquor quite weak compared with the CTC method
- Temp: 180 F | Altitude: almost 6,000 ft. Water boils at a lower temperature
- While the dry leaves were unimpressive to look at, the infused leaves were lovely in their variation. Surprised by how mild the liquor was given the dry and wet leaf scent.
- I found the flavor quite similar between CTC and orthodox, but the orthodox is more complex, richer and longer in mouth

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 3 2 3 1 1
Leaf Aroma 2 5 3
Liquor Aroma 4 4 1 1
Liquor Flavor 2 2 4 2



Sample #003 - Yunnan - CTC
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Large light brown grains of sand. Slightly round shape but some jagged appearance. Fairly uniform some sheen.
- Larger “grain-sized” bits in the cut, some nice variation in color from red to brown. Cut seems to be very even and consistent.
- Dark brown, very small granules of differing sizes - plant fibers visible.
- pellets, brown/red
- reddish brown, few lighter brown, uniform cut, very small
- Dark brown/golden. Small, uniform with a grainy, gritty appearance
- Brownish with specs of golden. Uniform medium size pieces
- instant coffee grounds, some color variation of dark to golden brown
- grainy brown

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Mild but earth. Baked. Some bready notes. Even.
- Leathery in an appealing way, dark in a more mysterious way
- Earthy / Musty
- deep
- earthy, bright, brisk
- Earthy
- Sweet and floral but weak
- dusty hay and fruit, maybe grapes
- vegetal, animal ("dung" but not an unpleasant smell), a little bit smoky

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown large particles. (Darker than 001). Some depth.
- Reddish-brown, grains of infused leaf remain loose. Still show nice variation of lighter and darker bits.
- Chocolate-brown infused granules; plant fibers still somewhat visible.
- vibrant, uniform
- chocolate brown, a little plumper
- Leaves were brown in colour, clumping together
- Deep brown, uniform cut, even in size and form
- wet earth, seems fairly uniform
- brown grainy

 Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Slight must scent with faint hints of citrus. Earthy, dry, aged but not fermented. Baked. No noticeable sweetness.
- Richness, very dry raisins and woodiness
- Earthy / Sweet
- soft
- a little musty, smelled savory on the 3rd sniff
- A combination of earthy, musty and smokey
- Nice character, complex and deep notes
- old, moldy, musty and unpleasant
- vegetal, floral, a light smoky smell

Liquor Color:
- Dark brown with gold rim but not as vibrant as 001.
- Brown, clear when warm – became cloudy as it cooled.
- Bright orange-red, somewhat cloudy.
- reddish brown
- reddish brown, dull
- Dark, reddish-brown in colour, quite dull in appearance
- Reddish brown
- dull and opaque, like cherry wood without a shine
- dark brown, dull

- Burnt, astringent, earthy. Musty taste with strong tobacco notes. Not particularly sweet. Ashes.
- Initial bitterness that faces. Aftertaste becomes more interesting with a bit of raisin or like the stone in some stone fruits.
- Strong, sharp flavor / mouth-drying / smooth finish
- astringent, malty, character, pungent
- brisk, dry, hint of fruitiness, no sweetness, dry aftertaste
- Earthy with a rich, bold flavour.  Clean finish with a slightly lingering bitterness
- Smooth beginning and astringent aftertaste. Slightly bitter
- dull, fishy, like old socks left in a wet heap until they molded
- vegetal (hay), floral, a bit of animal, strong but not too much astringent

- Rich and malty over all but too highly fired. Slightly burnt taste, especially in the 1st infusion. 2nd infusion balances out a bit but musty note remains and detracts.
- Clouded when it cooled.
- The bold flavor grabs your taste buds, starts off astringent but finishes smooth. Mouth drying.
- Somewhat non-descript though terroir was present
- Preferred this to Kenya #1 CTC, but also remembered I always prefer orthodox over CTC.  This tea was average, but #4 orthodox was much better.
- The level of astringency and bitterness is lower compared to sample 001. Logic behavior, the larger the speck, the smaller the surface area
- This tastes like it was stored badly.

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 1 2 4 1 2
Leaf Aroma 3 4 3
Liquor Aroma 5 4 1
Liquor Flavor 1 2 4 3



Sample #004 - Yunnan - Orthodox
Dry Leaf Appearance:
- Large black leaves with some gold buds and some stalk. Some twist to the leaf but mostly all broken leaves. Somewhat uniform with some sheen.
- Shorter leaves, not too much twist in the leaves but tightly rolled.
- Varying shapes and sizes of dark brown cut leaf - a few golden tips and twigs.
- clean, broken, light tippy, attractive
- black and greenish black leaves with a few straw colored ones. Thin 1/4" to 1" long
- Black/dark brown in colour with Golden hair. Even, uniform, twisted,  leaves
- Dull / Matte color. Uniform leaf slightly twisted
- short-ish leaves that are a little curly in spots, green gold and brown in color
- make, well twisted, black with some white tips

Dry Leaf Aroma:
- Musty but some sweetness. Deep, rich with tobacco hints.
- Earthiness, slightly dry fruit. Slight fragrance of sour cherries.
- Fresh / Woodsy / hint of Juniper
- deep, bold
- sweet, floral, fruity, pleasant
- Smokey, earthy, bold
- sweet and musty, smooth floral notes
- sweet dusty hay and fruit
- herbal, floral

Wet Leaf Appearance:
- Dark brown, large choppy leaves. Not fully opened. Some luster to the leaves. Very faint green tint.
- Leaves open quickly and some nice variation of light and dark is apparent. More tightly rolled leaves do not open but some pieces do. A sheen on the leaf even as it dries.
- Copper / Broken leaves / Lots of mid-vein
- vibrant, twisted, uneven
- some full small leaves and larger leaf pieces
- Dark brown, bright leaves. When wet, the leaves seem to be less even in shape and torn.
- Mustard seed-like color, mixed sizes. Tight, twisted and unevenly open.
- the leaves opened up and seemed to be small broken leaf fragments of a uniform color
- long pieces

Wet Leaf Aroma:
- Spicy, camphor, baked bread with some fruity sweetness. Deep and rich.
- Light earthiness and an aged sweetness
- Sweet / Stewed prunes / Hint of spice
- soft
- sweet, floral, slightly musty
- Soft and earthy
- Meaty, floral and sweet
- sour and sharp
- cake, toasted, floral, fruit

Liquor Color:
- Deep brown/red. Some brightness but very deep.
- Reddish brown, clear
- Amber / somewhat cloudy
- deep amber
- reddish brown, dull (same as #3 CTC)
- Red colour of clear, bright, shiny appearance
- Reddish brown
- dark polished oak or old amber
- light brown

- Smooth, round. Astringent but fruity. Rich but not well balanced. Astringency lingers in the finish.
- Slight sweetness comes later. Very subtle flavor of raisin or dried cherry.
- Complex / Smooth / Malty / Waxy mouth feel
- plain, mildly astringent, light
- floral, a bit fruity, sweet, not dry, smooth, longer aftertaste which becomes a bit dry
- Pleasant malty, full flavour, mellow with a slight sweetness. Clean. Did not detect astringency.
- Sweet and floral. No astringency noted. Rich flavor, asparagus and vegetal notes
- monotone, dusty and faintly musty, overall unexciting
- sweet (honey), floral, a little bit smoky

- Generally a nice tea. Well made. Some noticeable fruity characters make it interesting while the musty notes dive depth (though less desirable). Finish is winey with some lingering but acceptable astringency. 2nd infusion was smooth and a bit fruity with some nutty notes. Still earthy and musty.
- Smooth, malty flavor glides over the palate - no trace of astringency or bitterness.
- disappointed
- Really enjoyed this tea. I would use 3 grams and sometimes a little honey. Not as big a difference in taste for CTC and orthodox as there was for #1 and #2.
- Of all the first four samples, this is my number one preference.
- Logically this tea tastes much like a black but it drinks like a green. It has asparagus/vegetal notes, uncommon in black tea
- This was an average tea for me. I would not seek it out for purchase.

Rank: Combined scores for all Cuppers. Cuppers were asked to score the sample based on four criteria. The chart below shows the overall ranking of each attribute. The rank range was 1 to 5 with one indicating most appealing and 5 indicating least appealing. A higher number indicates more Cuppers agreed on the same ranking.

1=Most Appealing 1 2 3 4 5
Leaf Appearance 5 3 1 1
Leaf Aroma 2 4 3 1
Liquor Aroma 5 3 2
Liquor Flavor 5 2 1 2

About The Author


Other posts by

Author his web site


09 2016

Your Comment

You must be logged into post a comment.