This post starts with the end of day 3. In my previous post I was in the middle of a very long day processing a tea. That day eventually finished at 2am, but was one of the most interesting and eye opening days I have had working with tea.
After the withering earlier in the day the tea then had to be tumbled in a large cylindrical tumbling machine. This speeds up oxidation by bruising the leaf cells. The machine is stopped after about an hour and the leaves are removed and placed on large bamboo trays. They are left to oxidise for around 3 hours before this is stopped by using high temperature in fire panning. After a brief spell in a rolling machine the processing of the leaves is finished for the day as they are dried by passing through what is essentially a large oven. The whole process relies in the expertise of the workers, luckily there was guidance every step of the way. In all of the above timings are key but these are quite often changed depending on the assessment of the maker. With this part of the process any changes are to the timings. I will write more about all these steps at a later date!
Whilst the oxidation was going on this time was not spent sitting around drinking tea (well not all of it!). Instead I was learning all about the roasting process used for oolong teas. This is a highly skilled process including following finely crafted baking schedules combined with regular checking of how it's taste is progressing. This can lead to adjustments of the schedule in terms of the temperature or the timings. This baking process creates magnificent flavours when done correctly and can destroy a tea if mistakes are made. Consequently all decisions were made by the makers, although I did fill one of the baking trays with tea!
The day finished with a check of the flavour of the now dried tea. Thankfully it tasted fantastic and passed the very vigorous standards of the farmer. I went to bed exhausted but with the lingering taste of a fine Jade oolong.