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Tea producing diary 2019

October 18 – Dry and Sunny.

4 Days ago there was a raining happened in the night, we have been waiting for it for over 2 months, that got me excited even more than The NBA Finals, I can imagine how happy of the land the plant as well as the grass there in the garden.

Location:Caixi, Juxi village, Long Juan town, Anxi county, Fujian province China
Elevation:750m
Temperature:30°C
Humidity:60%
Varietal:Tieguanyin Iron Goddess
Plucking time:13:00
Night tumbling – Photograph by D.C.

1. Withering

Fresh leaves arrived on 14:00 after 3 pluckers’ hard work, it’s not delivered to the factory actually to a 100+ years old house surrounded by mountains and big trees. This old house has been abandoned for many many years, even no family live nearby, just him sits here with clean air and bird singing. This house belongs to a friend’s relatives, quite complex aha but this relationship not just works but very helpful especially in the countryside. We regret to drive our car to be here, this is a very primitive road, the roadside grass gently touch our car just as a lover when we drove slowly, it’s better to use motorcycle.

A cloth was unfolded on the ground just in front of the old house, 28 kgs fresh raw tea leaves laid on the cloth for sun withering, it’s in the deep mountain and altitude is high, the temperature decreased quite quickly, only about 28°C, after 30 minutes, it even decreased to 25°C, at this time the first leaf was a bit soft but not others, them temperature can not hold deeper withering so we got them into the house.

2. Tumbling

As the sun withering is not enough so we made a light first tumbling, put the leaves into a rolling round basket for 5 minutes so the leaves can collide with each other as well as the basket wall, the surface of leaves will be broken and gets some chemical reaction with the air. We call it Yao Qing or Shaking or Dancing, that’s the unique craft differ Oolong from green/black tea.

We didn’t use air conditioner to control the temperature, I believe the clean air in high mountain has a spirit that can refresh the tea inside. Besides it’s an old house, not many equipments available, we need to follow the most traditional way by in use of the nature. The reason we came here instead of a modern factory it’s quite simple, I have a friend who want to learn tea making all by hands. There is a rumor in programming:

Lazy one can make better programming.

Also there is a found the “boring can evoke children’s imagination” while all commands kill creativity. Here in this old house we can be ourself, ask questions, resolve the problem.

The first tumbling is in order to make the moisture of leaf even, as the sun withering will let the leaf lose more moisture than the stem, right now they are fair again.

14:40 House withering begins

After several minutes even was broken as the air permeability of leaf and stem is different, leaves are put onto the bamboo tray with 5cm high, the leaves need to breath so do not stack too thick. The moisture in stems will flow to the leaf so make it hardish again.

Sit still for about 1.5 hours until the green color of leaf become darker while the edge turn lighter green, grassy decreased and a bit of flavor available, then it’s ok to continue for the second tumbling.

15:10 Tumbling goes to 2nd time

Based on the 1st tumbling, the preparation for moisture migration is ready. This time the real exercise begins, so the tumbling would be heavier than previous one, it’s about 27 RPM, this tumbler is over 30 yrs old that can not adjust the rate however it works pretty well. So we decided to make a longer time as 10 minutes.

We just watched its play, like a slow movie, every round it makes a noise, something like old wood going to break down but it makes it every time. I was happy to have this music with us. We did not have time to appreciate the insect’s song outside, even they were trying to please us with different rhythm.

Ten minutes was so short, finally the gate of tumbler was opened, we dig our heads into these hero leaves, they relived with full of blood, a little grassy, leaf tip cocks up, you can see it’s in a state of excitement. Now better to put them back to the bamboo tray for a rest.

15:30 House withering again for 2.5h

Time is miracle that can get you a lot of shows. Slowly the leaf gets soft again, the moisture in the leaf ran away to have a tryst with someone we do not know. There was a bird outside, he seems quite like the rearview mirror of car, jumps up and down, maybe he hasn’t seen mirror, maybe he is just a kid, he was kind of shy that tried to hide when I looked at him. Let him play, I think. After about 5 minutes you finally fly away, I didn’t know he made some white shit on the mirror 🙂

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The leaves start to have a little flowery aroma, we were so excited to find this. After a long voyage, finally to saw a bit light of lighthouse from the afar. The leaf became soft again and back curved, the green color turned lighter and you can see the edge got a bit of red. When the grassy smell stepped down, that’s the show time again.

18:10 Tumbling goes for red

This is the most important time for aromatics conversion, red edge formation happens massive here. The round bamboo cage shaking was kind of wild at this time, so as the grassy smell, it needs to be as heavy as possible, step into the climax of Symphony. Moisture in the stems flows to leaf and make it stiff until the whisper appear.

We were strange people, bend over and attach our nose/ears as close as possible to the tumbler, at that moment I am sure I meditated like a great monk with a blank yet clear mind. It’s in the deep mountain and it’s October, I didn’t realize the sun back home so soon, the cold air seems has more power with the help of darkness, it’s a bit chilly but I know the leaves are on hot dancing, present every possible posture they can, their happiness eventually will become the sweetness and aromatic, I dare not to move a finger in case of interrupting them.

But we have to stop them, checking their edge how red it is. After 40 minutes shaking, unfortunately we didn’t get what we were looking for. The sun withering wasn’t heavy enough, we did not luck to have enough sunshine. “Well begun is half done”, now we can not agree more. The options we have is to make greenish common tea or continue for longer tumbling for great traditional legacy tea. We chose the difficult one.

Another 10 minutes? Ok, how is it, still not enough? let’s make another 5, all right 5 minutes again, finally we got the aroma, although the red edge area not ideal yet we gotta to make call it off, I know they have done their best and exhausted quite lot. Anyway we can make it a bit right by piling longer time in the end.

19:20 Heroes rest as house withering

Leaves were put back onto bamboo tray, as high as 10cm, the thicker the better but not the center part in order to prevent temperature of leaves flying too high. Right this time we were kind of free, we stepped out of the house, darkness suddenly hit us totally, barely see anything but cold clean night air, slowly naughty stars emerge more and more, they are shinning bling bling and they are so many there, they look so pure that totally different from the city sky, we were lucky to be touched.

A small episode at 5:10am

The leaves stay on the tray for long time house withering, finally we can have a rest but I woke up at 5:10am, it’s blindly dark here, I decided to check them out. When I went out my room, I hear a song nearby, a very quiet song, I 100% confirmed no song in day time and no one live around, might that be ghost singing?

Next morning our host came from the village at the foot of mountain, he invited me to see his chickens, his motorcycle driving skill is excellent, when we got there I found that song again, he said it’s for his chickens.

06:30 Tumbling goes to the final time

The fourth time tumbling is for aroma, no need to be too strong, we made it 4 minutes and pile it up to increase the oxidization, when the aroma hits the peak and has about 20% red area, that’s the time for stopping oxidization.

Killing green for stopping oxidization

There is a big oven in the old house, the oven is old too, over 30 years old but still looks shining. We used bamboo for firing. In Chinese culture, bamboo has very unique character, clean and integrity. Using bamboo can help tea get its nice aroma too. Although in the beginning there was too much smoke but when you see that smoke float in the sky with big trees, everybody’s mind is free at that time. We knew we had made something special.

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