All About CTC Tea

CTC black tea.

CTC tea also known as mamri tea, is used popularly to make masala chai. 

CTC tea is often used to create strong, full-bodied, and brisk teas that brew quickly. It also produces a deep red color. 

So what is CTC tea? The full form of CTC tea is Crush, Tear, and Curl tea. It refers to a manufacturing process rather than a specific tea type.

It is a type of tea production method – the process by which the tea leaves are processed and prepared. 

In this article, we delve into the world of CTC tea โ€“ a red-hued gem that traces its origins to the vibrant Assam region of India.

A white, gold rimmed bowl with a spoonful of CTC black tea.

Origins of CTC Tea

This tea originated in the early 20th century in India and quickly gained popularity for its efficiency in mass production. The process involves crushing, tearing, and curling the tea leaves, resulting in small, dense pellets. 

Sir William McKercher forever altered the landscape of tea production with his revolutionary CTC process. This groundbreaking method, which stands for “Crush, Tear, and Curl,” introduced a new era of efficiency and consistency in tea processing.

Before the advent of CTC, tea production predominantly relied on whole-leaf teas and orthodox processing. The CTC method involves passing black tea leaves through a series of cylindrical rollers with sharp teeth. This process crushes, tears, and curls the leaves, resulting in small, uniform hard pellets.

Rose chai in a glass with a gold spoon to the side.

Assam tea, known for its robust flavor and bold character, found a perfect match in the CTC method. The efficient processing of Assam tea leaves using CTC technology resulted in a distinctive flavor profile. Particularly when enjoyed as a hearty masala chai or milk tea.

The CTC method swiftly gained prominence due to its ability to produce consistent quality and flavor, which resonated with consumers seeking convenience without compromising on taste.  

This unique method enhances the tea’s shelf life, making it well-suited for packaging and shipping, particularly in regions with varying climates.

CTC Tea Types

There are several types of CTC tea, each with its distinct characteristics and flavors:

Assam CTC tea: This robust and bold variety hails from the Assam region in India. It boasts a strong malty flavor and is often used as a base for masala chai.

Darjeeling tea: Renowned worldwide for its unique flavor and aroma, often referred to as the “Champagne of Teas.  It is most often available in whole leaf but can also be found as a loose leaf tea or CTC.

Kenyan CTC: Known for its bright color and brisk taste, Kenyan CTC tea is widely used in blends and is favored for its strong character.

Ceylon CTC: Coming from the lush tea estates of Sri Lanka, Ceylon CTC tea is admired for its balanced flavor profile. It is frequently used in blends and as a base for iced tea.

Dooars and Terai CTC: Grown in the eastern regions of India. These teas offer a milder flavor compared to Assam CTC. So they are perfect for those seeking a lighter brew.

Oat milk chai in a mug.

Usage in Masala Chai

When it comes to a truly authentic cup of chai, connoisseurs know CTC tea is key for the perfect chai.  

The small pellets of this tea taste produce a consistent flavor and a flavorful, perfect cup of masala chai.

While you can make a masala chai recipe using tea bags, Indian tea drinkers use this type. I love using Wagh Bakri brand. I find that it doesn’t get bitter from tannins if you let it steep for a long time. 

Glass of mint tea with a mint leaf on the side.

The small pellets of CTC taste produce a consistent flavor and a flavorful tea. The deep ruby hue comes through with CTC Assam.

The strong and robust character of CTC complements the addition of chai spices, milk, and sweeteners in chai. 

The tea pellets are boiled together with water, spices like cardamom and ginger, milk, and sugar. This creates a harmonious symphony of flavors and aromas.

While dairy milk is traditionally used in chai, I love making Oat Milk Chai and my own blend of Tea Masala Powder.

Chai is one of my favorite things and love to try out different flavors. Some include hot Chocolate Chai, Rose Chai, Biscoff Chai

Brewing pot of masala chai.

Difference Between CTC Tea and Orthodox Tea

The primary distinction between CTC tea and orthodox tea production lies in the manufacturing process and the resulting characteristics:

Manufacturing Process: CTC undergoes a mechanical process that crushes, tears, and curls the leaves, creating dense pellets. On the other hand, the traditional way involves carefully rolling and shaping whole tea leaves, preserving their natural appearance.

Flavor and Strength: CTC tends to have a stronger, bolder flavor compared to orthodox tea. Its broken leaves release more tannins, resulting in a brisk and robust cup.

Brewing: Due to its smaller and denser leaves, CTC brews faster than orthodox tea. It is commonly used for quick and strong infusions, while orthodox tea often requires a longer steeping time.

CTC wagh bakria chai.

CTC Method

The CTC method involves several steps:

Crush: The freshly plucked tea leaves are first mechanically crushed or broken into small pieces. This helps to rupture the cell walls of the leaves, which accelerates the oxidation process.

Tear: The crushed leaves are then torn into even smaller pieces, further exposing them to oxygen. This tearing process is typically done by machines with serrated rollers.

Curl: After tearing, the tea leaves are curled into tiny pellets or granules. This curling helps to shape the leaves and prepare them for the final stages of processing.

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