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    Production of Chinese Green Tea
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Lesson #16. Production of Chinese Green Tea

Green tea production technology:
1 Plucking
2 Withering
3 Kill-green
4 Shaping
5 Frying or drying
The technology of green tea production is not really that complicated

Best green tea is produced only in the springtime. Most valuable gathering takes place at the end of March, when the tips are sappy and rich of nutrients.

Later a while, by the end of April, good green tea is also harvested however more simple and low-cost.

In May flowers are added to the green tea as its flavor lacks brightness. This is where the flower tea originates from.

Summer, autumn, winter tea has no demand in China and goes to the mass market.

Tea leaf growing on the tree or bush is rather dense. Frying it immediately after gathering will result in braking of the leaves.

Therefore the tea is withered for several hours to make it softer and less breakable at processing.

The tea is spread on traditional bamboo trays and stirred up periodically to let moisture out of leaves more evenly.

The completion of all processes is determined by readiness degree of the tea for further processing rather than by specific time.

The essential procedure making the green tea out of the tea leaf is «kill-green».

In a hot bowl at the temperature 200°С recently gathered tea is fried stirring it continuously.

Under the influence of high temperature all processes in the raw leaf are ceased. It retains green color and its composition remains closest to the fresh tea leaf.

Larger factories use special heating drums for «kill-green» procedure which is obviously worse if compared to the constant control of tea maker.

They are heated the old fashioned way.

Tea slowly rotates inside and stirs up continuously.

On the left is the leaf after «kill-green» procedure. It retained green color. On the right is the tea leaf kept out of this procedure. It went red.

Under the impact of high temperature enzymes (or ferments) in the leaf are destroyed and oxidation of the tea sap stops.

Grassy scent and taste disappear.

As always the readiness of a tea is determined by the expert. Many teas come to the stage of «shaping». There are plenty of those so I will focus only on three.

Tea leaves are twisted in wave shape.

At the time of frying tea leaves in the frying bowl are constantly rolled into a big tangle.

Snarling by hands into small balls results in wavy tea leaves.

Other method is used to put tea leaves into flat shape.

The tea is squashed by pressing it against the bottom and sides of the frying bowl.

Or «rubbed» up the frying bowl by pressing with the palm and making it more flat.

There are several unusual tea leaf forms. One of them is long flat tea of «Tàipíng hóukuí».

Tea leaves are placed in special meshy tray.

And are dried in a special drying chamber. No wonder it becomes so expensive. Its production is quite time consuming.

Frequently the final drying of tea takes place within «shaping» procedure. Frying continues until complete dehydration of tea leaves (4% of remaining humidity).

In China it is traditionally brewed in transparent glasses to enjoy the beauty of the leaves.

Special aspects of brewing green tea

Due to low fermentation rate (natural up to 5%) and leaf tenderness green tea is steeped at temperature not exceeding the range between 60 and 85°С. The smaller and more tender the leaf or newer the tea, the lower the water temperature to deliver its flavor.

Glass tea-ware is the best choice for the green tea, porcelain takes the second place. Tea leaves inside the vessel should not get steamed. It makes the beverage rough, the aroma becomes subdued and may completely vanish after a few steepings. Unadvisable are vessels made of clay and thick ceramics. In China one of the most common ways to brew green tea is in high transparent glass. There’s even a standalone tea ceremony with glasses.

Storage of the green tea

Green tea looses it’s freshly flavor quite soon. Therefore in China it is customary to drink it all from one harvest to another. Most cultivars loose their best flavor traits in several months.

Large stocks of green tea are better to be stored in refrigerator. Should it be above — or below-zero temperature remains almost philosophical issue. We need to slow down aging of tender leaf, preserve its flavor. Standard cooling chamber (with inside temperature about +5°С) serves this purpose quite well. Oppositionists of storage in the freezer (where temperature is about -10°С) refer to the possibility of condensed moisture getting into tea packages in the process of freezing and unfreezing of the leaf. Therefore it’s better to store vacuum packages there without drawing them back and forth.

Unfortunately household refrigerator contains off-flavors which may penetrate unsealed package. Thus most sound decision would be: to store vacuum packages in a cooler or freezer, while unsealed tea to be stored at room temperature with package clipped and use it within 1–3 months. Do not make excessive stocks of green tea — it should always be fresh.

Illustrated by screenshots from films: 绿茶加工工艺, 胡家茶 手工太平猴魁制作, Hand Processing of Bi Luo Chun green tea on Golden Mountain, Dragonwell and photos from personal files.

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