When properly done, the newly harvested tea leaves are allowed to "sit and stabilize" for at least a few days after their initial processing on the day of the harvest. In this interim, the remaining minuscule amount of moisture in the leaf stem gets redistributed. For greener high mountain tea, aka "gaoshancha", the less oxidized leaves undergo a singular post processing roast in order to deplete all remaining moisture from the leaf.
Here, Andy and Mr. Lin carry out the first bag of tea for the initial roasting, several days after harvest:
For more traditional oolongs, the more heavily oxidized leaves are roasted repeatedly, which not only removes all water content, but also "toasts" the leaf to varying degrees, transforming the flavor and consistency of the brewed tea. This is a significant factor in the making of a traditional artisan oolong tea.
Mrs. Lin and Andy examine and talk about de-stemming the leaves after the first roast, as Mr. Lin fills the trays to be put in the oven. About 35 pounds of tea distributed on ten screen trays will be roasted for about 6 hours at approximately 100 degrees celcius for the initial roast.
And the first batch of leaves are in the oven! Thus begins the long slow roasting process that will be carefully attended to toward the end of each roasting to determine when a particular roasting session is "done". Then the leaves are let to cool, removed from the oven and stored again for several days to restabilize for the consequent roast - until the desired result is achieved. More updates to come on the roasting process and tasting of the leaves as they undergo their final curing process!
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.