Organic tea garden – Yiwu , Yunnan Province , China.
farmer : Xiao Zhu – farmer’s garden
(Tea garden of young arbor trees hidden in the forest of Yiwu mountains.)
We got an opportunity to put our hands on spring harvest of Yiwu tea leafs from the beginning to the end.
Picking up the leafs from the arbor trees and then spread them out all over the “bed” ( it is like bed without mattress ) to wilt/wither them for a while.
The tea leafs are pretty warm as they already started their fermentation process in the basket on the way down from the mountains. The perforated net allows to leafs “breathe” and cool down so the natural fermentation is rapidly slowed down and withering time can be extended which has an important role in taste of the tea and many tea producers experimenting with this part of process . Sometimes go too long and move into the black (red) tea stage. Some tea manufactures use very efficient cooling system equipped with vents.
( As purple tea leafs seems to be a very rare and expensive , in Xiao Zhu’s farm occasionally this type of leafs can be found among the regular green ones. )
Few hours later the main and the most difficult part of process takes stage.
Kill green ” Sha Qing ” – the process which stops enzyme activity in green leafs and therefore stops oxidation / fermentation. Big companies, factories use drum shaped fry machines which guarantees each batch being processed same way and therefore almost similar flavor. Farmers or small producers using big wok pans and processing by hand.
Time, temperature , size of the batch ( amount tea in wok each time of processing ) and technique of flipping over the tea on the pan are the key elements influencing the final flavor and therefore quality of the tea.
- Time too long – it would be too smokey and kills the sweetness
- Time to short – turns bitter and watery ( weak taste )
- Temperature too high – tea would be roasted like peanuts
- Temperature too low – you would make a green tea rather than pu-erh tea.
As you can see, the temperature regulator is fully manual and timer is the nose of the master ( he can smell the right flavor and stops the process ). Each batch is between 5-8kg of fresh leafs. You can do more but its harder to control and you more than likely burn some of the leafs and not fry properly ( evenly ) same time. Smaller amount you would have to flip over much faster and therefore also difficult to keep it under control.
As you can imagine , each batch will have slightly different flavor , so even if the final products like tea cake can differ a bit.
After that immediately put on bamboo trays to cool down and then mechanically rubbed on special machine.
In some very poor places this process is also done by hand and its very hard.
Naturally sun dried and then separated from the “Huang Pian” yellow leafs. By taking these leafs out , the final tea is rated much higher ( higher grade ) but most of the farmers prefer to keep them mixed when making the autumn tea. Huang pian it self have quite sweet fruity-plummy taste and farmers use them for daily drinking tea.
The final stage is pressing into cakes , balls or bricks and wrapping.
Then it will show up in our shop 2017 Yi Wu Da Shu