Storage time versus leaf size


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Storage time versus leaf size

Postby Grubby » Aug 3rd, '08, 11:09

Intuitively, a large leafed tea would keep much better under storage than for example broken leaf or fannings.

Does anyone know if this is a true assumption?
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Postby Victoria » Aug 3rd, '08, 11:15

I think it is actually the opposite. But the reason is not in keeping per se but in the roasting - broken leaf pieces and fannings are usually associated with heavier roasted teas like most blacks. These have a much longer shelf life.

Or are you speaking of say whole leaf black tea Vs. teabags? Even so, I think the teabags win.
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Postby shogun89 » Aug 3rd, '08, 11:36

What kills tea is being exposed to air. CTC tea (tea bags) is very dense because it has small particles, think of it like sand. Air flow is much more limited to this. Whole leaf is usually very voluminous, picture stones. Air can get through all the nooks and crannies much easier than the sand therefore going bad much faster. sorry for the rock analogies.
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Postby Wesli » Aug 3rd, '08, 12:19

That works, shogun. Think about which would be easier/harder to breathe through. Slapping a handful of teabags over your face would probably suffocate you, unless the tea inside were whole leaf. This is the reason I pack my powdered sencha into the bottom of a small tin, then scrape off the top for use. I think this helps, although powdered teas do go bad faster.

I believe matcha only has a 3-month shelf life. My powdered sencha would probably go bad by then as well. Whole leaf senchas, such as fuka-midori from Den's, can last a very long time. So, I'm of the opinion that whole leaf teas will go bad slower. In an open-to-air environment, this is definitely the case. However, Shogun and Victoria hold a point. More air-space exists between whole-leaves once they have been put into their proper tins.

So if you packed a powdered tea as hard as possible into a small tin, then left the whole-leaf tea with lots of space (not cramming, crushing), then you might find that the compressed powdered tea would keep better. However, powdered tea is rather fluffy, which means there is a lot of air between those tiny particles, even though you can't see it. Because of the increased surface area, the powdered tea will go bad faster if left as is.

Ever time a leaf is broken, more surface area is exposed. More surface area gives more space for oxygen to attack, which gives us stale tea. The best method to keep a tea fresh is to use the smallest airtight tins you can. Double-lidded tins are great, and throwing in an O2 absorbing packet would help as well.
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Postby Grubby » Aug 3rd, '08, 12:54

I am talking whole or big leaf black vs broken and fanning black (loose leaf, not teabags but the broken and fannings could very well be produced with CTC, i don't know that). Since theyre all black, there should not be a big difference in roasting, right?

So whats the conclusion? Wesli's point about exposed surface area is why i thought whole leaf would keep best. But i also get your point about air.
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Postby Proinsias » Aug 3rd, '08, 13:29

I would say in a like for like comparison one piece of ctc fanning would go off quicker than one large leaf of tea.

The issues start to become blurry when we have to consider large volumes of tea, say >50g, and we need to take in to account things like how much air as opposed to tea is present in the environment and surface area of tea exposed - as has been mentioned in far more detail than I can muster above.

I think the definitive answer to your question is: maybe sometimes.

It's not something I would devote a huge amount of brain space to as I reckon even after a year or two in average storage regardless of relative decline in quality I'm still not going to pick the ctc/fanning tea if there is a choice.

What length of time would one have to leave a pack of large leaf black/red tea in storage for it to decline to the point that it was ranked below a fresh ctc? quite a while I would think - and if someone mentions first flush Darjeeling I'll stick my fingers in my ears and shout 'that's a bit different' until they go away.

In my head quality black tea ages and ctc black tea bags left in the cupboard since Christmas go in the bin.
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Postby Grubby » Aug 3rd, '08, 13:42

Well there is lots of good quality broken leaf and you can also get good quality fannings, and thats one of the reason i asked the question, i was wondering if i should stay away from the broken leaf because it would already have become stale at the vendor, but i gues thats not something to worry about.

I don't think its fair to ignore tea just because its CTC processed but i might be wrong.
How is the Broken grade made? Is that CTC? I know a lot of people actually prefer broken over whole leaf.
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Postby Proinsias » Aug 3rd, '08, 14:00

I've never been very enamored with fannings, as my post might have given away.

As for the storage condition of the tea it's really more about the lengths the retailer has gone to when preserving the leaf than the leaf size that is of importance. If a vendor leaves some large leaf tea in a sack in a warehouse it is not going to compare to the freshness of nitro-flushed foil packs, it might be worth getting the opinions from a green tea point of view as this makes a far sharper decline in freshness and the freshness of something like matcha is generally taken a bit more seriously than the freshness of black fannings, imo.

Anyone around here able to recommend a quality source of black tea sold as fannings?
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Postby chrl42 » Aug 3rd, '08, 14:05

Grubby wrote:I know a lot of people actually prefer broken over whole leaf.


Shouldn't they be graded by looking of leaves? that smaller broken ones left out and graded last..

Or do they actually 'break' leaves that were looking alright in the first place?

I would not know..I am new to black teas...
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Postby Grubby » Aug 3rd, '08, 14:21

Im pretty sure the whole leaves are broken through CTC, then sorted according to size, so the main point is the quality of the original leaves, not the size of the resulting leaves.

It seems a lot of african teas are "big fannings", even though theyre high quality made from clonal plants. However i don't know where to buy them, except a local danish dealer which has one type which is not exceptional quality.

Here is a image of a broken leaf Assam, which i will probably try at some point:
Image
It's graded as FTGFBOP, notice the B for Broken. It's also more expensive than most of the whole leaf Assam's sold on the same site.

Edit: I just checked my tea book, and it seems that fannings and dust are in the same category, but Fannings are larger than dust and probably also better quality.

Oh and a final point: When i say a lot of people prefer broken, i don't mean the majority. Even 10-20% of informed black tea drinkers is still a lot of people :)
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Postby Grubby » Aug 3rd, '08, 17:44

Seems like i was wrong on some points.
Apparently Orthodox processing produces all grades of leaves. And according to Wikipedia grades like for example FBOP or FOP are ONLY used for orthodox processed teas. So your assumption that CTC tea is low quality could very well be correct. However this does not mean that broken or fannings are low quality. The "high quality" broken leaves and fannings must be from the amount that occurs naturally during the orthodox processing, while the CTC goes to the teabags.

Look at this grade of fannings for example:
TGFOF (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings).
I wouldn't mind trying some tea from that grade.

Read more here:
http://www.teafountain.com/tea_grade.php
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Postby Proinsias » Aug 3rd, '08, 18:12

Cheers Grubby. I'll try to be a little more open minded about fannings and such like in the future.
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