TiKuan Yin making is 13-16 hour long and labor-intensive process. It is a stateof art, rather than a state of science. The "right" way depends on alot of uncontrollable factors, such as the amount of dew on fresh tea leaves,strong or weak sunlight, or the moisture in the air, etc. It is therefore up totea masters to determine what should happen during each step. Not until the endcan we know the final quality of a tea batch.
· Tea Leaf Plucking
Plucking tea leavesusually happen between 9:30am and 3:30pm. The best time to pluck is 2pm to 3pmin the afternoon during a sunny and lightly windy day. One pluck usuallycontains 1 shoot and 2-3 tea leaves.
· Sun Dry
The freshly pluckedleaves are spread out thinly over a bamboo matting or other material which keepthe leaves from contact with the earth. The shoots are wilted under the sun for5-30 minutes, depending on the temperature. This process is so critical thatwithout it will be impossible to make high-quality Ti Kuan Yin. As tea growers,we prey for good weather.
Put tea leaves into arotating container made of bamboo and shake it. This process shakes outunwanted materials and soften the surface of tea leaves. More moisture contentwill evaporate from the tea leaves. How long this process takes usually dependson the aroma and the changing color of tea leaves.
· Air Dry - Wither
Tea leaves are thentaken indoors, where they are left to wither at room temperature for a numberof hours. During this period the leaves are gently agitated by hand every hour.This process causes the edge of the leaf to turn red, and the moisture contentdrops about 20%. These controlled actions cause the biochemical reactions andenzymatic processes in the leaf, which in turn produce the unique aromas andcolors found in Oolong teas.
After this time, thewithered leaves are fired either by hand in a pan or in a mechanical roaster atbetween 250 â€“ 300 0C for about 15 minutes. This removes most moisture andstops the enzymatic process from continuing further.
· Roll / Fire / Dry
This step, togetherwith the following two steps, is the most time consuming and labor-intensivestep in the whole process. These three steps are usually repeated about 10-18times for tea leaves to reach desired shape. This process is like the oppositeof serving tea: it curls a flat tea leaf into a twisted-wiry looking shape.
Roll: tea leaves are put into a 4-15 pounds bag, which is rolled into aball-shape and squeezed tightly. In old days tea makers used to step on the bagand use body weight to squeeze it. Nowadays people use machinery.
Fire: the leaves are then taken out, loosened, and dried out a little bit usingslow fire. This helps tea leaves to form its final curly-shape.
Dry: tea leaves are then spread out on bamboo mat to cool off.
The above three process will reduce the moisture level to about 3%.
· Final Pick
High-quality Oolong tea contains only tea leaves withsimilar color and size. The final picking process separate shoots and tealeaves and pick same size tea leaves into one batch. The smaller or broken tealeaves, as well as tea shoots, are then shredded into powder to make tea bags.
To guarantee freshness and fragrance, premium Ti Kuan Yin should bepackaged into small vacuum-sealed bags that is good for one Kongfu serving or2-3 casual servings. In room temperature, a vacuum-sealed bag can keep the teafresh for up to 18 months, compared to up to one month while tea is leftexposed to air.