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Wuyi Rock Tea Production Processes

Wuyi Rock Tea (武夷岩茶) or roasted oolong tea is widely consumed and enjoyed by people in China and outside China. It is famous for its outstanding aromas and complex flavours, as well as the history of Wuyi Mountain (武夷山) in Fujian Province (福建省). The mineral-rich environment of Wuyi Mountain breeds the extinguish characteristics of Wuyi Rock tea. On the other hand, human touch just gives the tea a second life to serve our tea appreciation. In this article, we are going to discuss where the unique taste and aroma of Wuyi Rock tea comes from.

1 Picking (采摘)
When the farmers pick the tea leaves, their palms need to face the sky, with the index finger hooking the fresh leaves and the thumb gently cutting off the tea leaves with strength. It is essential to keep the harvested fresh leaves fresh and try to avoid breakage, loose leaves, and heat change which could result in a lower quality.

2 Drying (晒青)
Drying requires that the temperature under 30 °C; the thickness of the leaves depends on the strength of the sun. the length of time depends on the age of the tea leaves and the strength of the sun and the variety of tea. For example, the principle of making Rougui (cinnamon, 肉桂) is to spread the tea leaves evenly and thinly. The weather has to be perfect, not too warm, not rainy otherwise the tea leaves will be damaged. The length of time shouldn’t be too long or too short. It has to be perfect. A true master knows when it’s right and when to stop.

3 Shaking to Fermentate (做青)
As the very essential step, if not the most, shaking the leaves differentiates oolong tea from all the other varieties. It takes strength and endurance to shake the tea leaves by holding the round bamboo trays with two hands and wisdom to know when is the best time to stop. This process bruises the tea leaves and prepares for the fermentation. You’d see the green tea leaves become dark with a bruised reddish edge. Widely, this step has been done by machines to make it more accurate. However, our tea farmers still believe in the warm human touch. So the art of shaking leaves is still serving the cup of tea we are holding.
Once the shaking is finished, tea leaves will be placed on the trays evenly again and let them rest. After a while, the tea farmers will repeat the shaking until the leaves are oxidized enough to entre the nest step.

4 Frying (炒青)
Frying stops the activity of certain enzymes, arrests the fermentation process and stabilizes the quality from shaking. It is important to stop the fermentation from going further once it’s finished. Otherwise, the tea would smell or taste nothing. Some enzymes make the tea taste bitter. Frying can destroy them to give us a soothing and sweet taste. Find the perfect place between the two extremes isn’t easy. But a true mastership is all we need.

5 Rolling & Kneading (揉捻)
Tea leaves have to be shaped right after the frying. The temperature can’t drop at all. Rolling the leaves on the bamboo trays bruises the cellular structure of the leaves, which makes leaves to slowly release their essential oils, flavours and aromas when they are steeped. The further bruising prevents the tea from more fermentation.
The double-fry & double-knead technique is a unique method in the production process of Wuyi Rock Tea. Re-frying can make up for the lack of the first frying. Reheating can enhance the aromas, flavours and rhyme of rock tea and make them last longer. The double kneading makes the tea leaves tighter and more beautiful. The double-fry & double-knead technique forms Wuyi Rock Tea’s unique “dragonfly head”, “frog skin”, “three knots colour’ characteristics.

6 Initial Roasting (初焙)
Initial roasting, commonly known as ‘water roasting’, is to use heat to transform some substances in tea. After the green leaves are double fried and double kneaded, they are sent to the roasting room for the next step. Only the best teas will be roasted start to finish on the same day. So more teas will go through the initial roasting to get more stable. After this, the tea will be stored. The windows are all closed. The humidity can only be released from the gap on the ceiling. The temperature remains between 100℃~110℃.

7 Complete Roasting (足焙)
Under the close supervision of the rock tea masters, complete roasting is carried out. It takes a longer time than the initial roasting. It can happen once or twice judged by the tea masters. After this, rock tea has a rich caramel aroma and lasts long. But if the tea has gone through three roastings, the aromatic properties can decrease a lot, even disappear.

High quality takes time. Nature has given us the best ingredients. We just need the magic of hard work and wisdom to master it. If you are interested in trying some authentic Wuyi Rock tea (roasted oolong tea), we have a wide selection of choices for you. Just check out here

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