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    Production of Chinese Red Tea (Gong Fu Hong)
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Lesson #19. Production of Chinese Red Tea (Gong Fu Hong)

Red tea production technology (gong fu hong):
1 Plucking
2 Withering
3 Rolling
4 Fermentation
5 Drying
6 Red pot
7 Sorting

Red tea is produced in many regions of China, but only in springtime. For different cultivars harvesting of the leaf takes place at varying times: from March 10 till June.

Withering is an indispensable procedure before crumpling. The leaf must loose the excessive moisture.

Today indoor tray tables like this are often used. To rich the required effect the temperature the room is artificially increased.

Sometimes it’s done outdoors the old fashioned way, which makes the control of the process more complicated.

But the leaf absorbs solar energy.

These days crumpling in most cases is performed on processing units like this which make it fast and with proper quality. The device is filled with tea leaves.

Covered by the lid and started up. The lid presses the leaf down against the bottom.

Bottom surface is covered with ribs, which twist and crumple tea leaves.

The end of the process is determined by production technician. Since different types of raw stock are used (buds, tips, large leaves) the crumpling time may vary.

As a result the leaf twists into wet bands. But they are still very pale, neither green nor red but more of yellow color.

The leaf covered with tea sap and completely crumpled is placed in baskets and covered with canvass.

Fermentation process requires several hours, sometimes the whole night. This depends on the type of the tea.

Technologist determines the moment to stop the process by stiffness, aroma and humidity of the leaves.

The tea attained red-and-brown color.

This process is required to stop fermentation of the tea sap. Initially the tea is dried by the machine.

Special mechanism evenly spreads tea leaves on the running surface.

And they fall into baskets at the opposite side.

Yet the final drying is traditionally completed by hand in so called «red pot». The tea is fried in special iron pots.

These pots are generally heated by firewood which flavors the tea with tender notes of bonfire. Frying may be as well performed using electric equipment.

Essentially this process separates red tea into grades. Not only harvesting time but the size of tea leaves is also very important.

The tea is filled into machine where it carefully and evenly spreads on the conveyor band.

After screening through a number of sieves tea leaves are graded by size and fall into separate containers.

It turns out that tea harvested and processed in one day may have different value.

As a result all tea in a proper batch looks uniform.

At the last stage of sorting the tea is examined manually to withdraw off-standard leaves. Machines are not yet capable of that.

Finished tea is packed into bulk packages and goes to the wholesale customers.

Or may be packaged locally for the retail trades.

Special aspects of brewing red tea

The tea is rated as fully fermented (which means that oxidation of tea sap reaches 100%) at the stage of processing. Therefore it’s natural to be brewed at water temperature near 100°C. Tea-ware used for brewing may inclide porcelain, ceramic, Yixing clay will do perfectly as well. In glass tea cools down swiftly, does not properly deliver its flavor from one steeping to another, that’s why the glass definitely does not fit for Chinese brewing method. It is acceptable for brewing the European style — by infusion.

Storage of red tea

Despite high leaf fermentation degree it should be remembered that red tea is produced of most tender tips. In China it is common, as well as the green tea, to drink it all before the next harvest. There are cases of aging of red tea but they are quite rare and more of the exception. If you are willing to follow the transformation of flavor it’s better to buy tea in cakes. It is produced of larger leaves instead of tender buds and is more suitable for aging.

Ordinary red tea is stored in tightly sealed cans with no access of air, away from sunlight at room temperature.

Illustrated by screenshots from film: 茂旺红茶加工技术.

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