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Let’s explore the difference between CTC and Darjeeling leaf tea? Also let’s understand what makes Darjeeling Tea so expensive?

Crush, tear, curl (CTC) 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 tea is mostly consumed by adding milk and sugar. This tea is mostly made in the plain areas of Assam and West Bengal in North India and in South India.

Darjeeling Tea refers to the teas that are grown in the hilly areas of Darjeeling District. The plain areas of Darjeeling district continue to make CTC teas. These teas are mostly made by machines where the processing is very minimal preserving most of the characteristics of the plucked leaf. Sometimes the teas are even hand rolled and sometimes just dried. These teas are generally whole leaf teas which are mostly consumed in there pure form without adding milk and sugar.

There are some points which will clear your doubts and will help you to distinguish between both the teas:

Climate – In plains the tea bushes get an average sunshine of around 12 hours a day which makes it conducive for growth. However, in Darjeeling the bushes on an average receive sunshine for only 5 hours a day also the temperatures are much lower. These results in what we call stunted growth and development of unique flavors.

Plucking – To produce the finest Darjeeling teas, quality of plucking is very fine. Because of stunted growth the size of the leaf is also very small. Workers choose the best leaves and pluck them. Most of the good Darjeeling teas are produced from two leaves and a bud alone. But to produce CTC fine plucking is not required. The leaf sizes in CTC are also very large as the conditions are conducive to growth.

While plucking the leaves in Darjeeling, workers need to be very careful about the size of the leaf. The smaller the leaves, the better it tastes. But, for CTC workers doesn’t need to bother about the leaf size.

Time of plucking – In Darjeeling plucking of tea leaves generally starts from March and ends in November. For very high elevation bushes, it starts in April and ends in October. Whereas, plucking for CTC in North India is done right from February to December.

Flavor –Darjeeling teas are known to have what we call Muscatel flavor. The tastes are very fruity and sometimes flowery with a very pleasing character and a delightful and lingering aftertaste. There is no need to add milk and sugar to the better and well made Darjeeling Teas. CTC on the other hand have very strong and brisk character and can only be enjoyed after milk and sugar.

Production – The tea estates of plains produces up to 3,000 Kilograms of CTC per hectare. The tea estates of Darjeeling produce up to 450 Kilograms of Darjeeling teas per hectare. Tea Estates both in Darjeeling and Dooars require 1 labour per acre. Since the tea made output per worker is much less in Darjeeling it makes the tea more expensive.

Grades – CTC teas are generally graded in three categories, Leaf Fanning, and Dust. The leaf grade or the bolder CTC are graded in BOPL, BOPSM and BP. The fanning is mostly graded in BPSM, PF and OF. The Dust grades are PD and Dust. The price difference between the different grades are not much and BP and OF tend to command the highest prices.

In Darjeeling there are four principal grades. Leaf, Broken, Fanning and Dust. The Leaf grades are mostly marked FTGFOP1 with acronyms like Wonder, Muscatel, Special, Classic, Autumn added to the special teas or some seasonal teas. The Brokens are BPS and, BOP. The fanning are TGOF, GOF and OF. The Dust is simply marked as Dust. The premium prices are only fetched for the Leaf Grade. The others grades do not fetch a premium and are mostly packed for packing in tea bags. An extra ordinary leaf grade could fetch a price anything from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 8000 at the wholesale market. The other grades generally are sold in the region of 500 to 100 depending on quality. In the rains the broken and fannings sell almost at the same price of CTC Teas. Since the other grades do not command a premium the prices of leaf grade are now on an upward trend as they need to cover most of the costs.

To understand the gradation system of teas in Darjeeling Click Here

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