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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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.