Process to Make Oolong Tea
To make high-quality Taiwan oolong tea, the process starts with carefully selecting the tea leaves from the tea plants. The best time to pick the tea leaves is in the morning when the dew is still present, as this is when the leaves have the highest water content and are the most tender.
The freshly picked tea leaves are then withered for several hours to reduce their moisture content, which makes them easier to handle and process. After withering, the leaves are placed in large bamboo baskets and gently tossed to bruise the edges of the leaves, which releases the tea's natural flavors and aromas.
The next step is oxidation, which is a critical step in producing oolong tea. The leaves are spread out on large trays and allowed to oxidize in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. The length of oxidation depends on the type of oolong tea being produced and can range from 10% to 80%.
Once the desired level of oxidation is achieved, the leaves are fired, which stops the oxidation process and locks in the tea's flavor and aroma. This process also removes any remaining moisture from the leaves and adds a roasted flavor to the tea.
After firing, the leaves are rolled to shape them into small, tight balls that resemble small pearls. This is done by hand or by machine, depending on the producer's preference. The rolling process helps to enhance the tea's flavor and aroma and also gives the leaves their distinctive appearance.
Finally, the rolled tea leaves are dried, sorted, and packaged, ready to be enjoyed as high-quality Taiwan oolong tea. The entire process requires a skilled and experienced tea master who understands the tea's unique characteristics and how to bring out the best flavors and aromas.