J-TEA International. October 2007
The J-Tea Leaf House offers tea that I have personally selected from small independent family farms. These are farms that I have direct relationships with.
Now it’s Oolong time all the time.
I am back from Taiwan. It was a great trip! The J-Tea Leaf House offers tea tasting, over 43 varieties of Oolong tea, 7 varieties of Puer tea, and other Chinese tea including Yunnan Golden Tips, as well as a wide variety of tea ware. The tea list is always growing. Fifteen new Oolongs are on the way here from Taiwan. Also I will soon receive some great new tea brew ware and some fantastic ceramics.
I charcoal baked my first batch of Oolong! Charcoal baking is the way that Oolong tea was traditionally roasted. This tea baking process is one that is kept secret and is often mystified to confuse tea vendors and producers. If everyone knew how to improve tea with this method, those that are considered baking masters would be out of work!
The function of baking tea is to preserve its shelf life, and to bring out some of the fruity or citric flavors of a tea. Actually, the process is not all that complicated, but it does take a bit of work and some very specific equipment. Here’s how it works:
First we filled a cement drum with 80 lbs of charcoal made from the Long Yen (longan) tree. This is a fruit tree that produces fruit a little bit similar to apricots. The great thing about charcoal baking is that the flavor of wood is absorbed into the tea, thus it is very important as to which wood is used to make the charcoal. The Long Yen wood is considered some of the best to make charcoal for baking tea.
The charcoal came in large chunks so we used a hammer to break it up into small pieces. Next, we compressed the charcoal by tamping it down into the cement drum. After igniting the charcoal at the center with a blow torch (a somewhat modern intervention) we covered all of the charcoal with about 2 inches of Long Yen charcoal ash. This acts as insulation and prevents the tea from being directly exposed to an extreme heat. The thickness of this ash can be adjusted depending on the charcoal heat.
This fire burned for 5 days straight. Each batch of roasting takes anywhere from 2 to a few hours, so several batches of tea can be roasted from this one fire. Roasting time depends on the heat of the fire and the degree to which one desires the roast.
A bamboo woven rung sat above the cement drum. In the rung is a metal screen and the tea sat on this metal screen. The screen was big enough to hold about 7 pounds of tea, and the rung held the tea about 15 inches above the fire. After the tea was spread evenly on the screen a small portion of tea was scooped out from the center, so that there was no tea in the center of the screen. This was the hottest area of the fire. It is important to keep tea off the hottest part of the fire.
I was helping with the roasting process for 2 days when my teacher posed the question, "Would you like to roast a batch of tea yourself that you can take back to America?" Of course I said “Yes”. What an experience!
I selected a Mt Ah Li Mi Xiang Oolong. This is a tea that has a substantial body and a sweet aftertaste. After placing my tea on the fire, an unpleasant smell was released from the tea. This is common when the tea is first placed on the fire. The timer was set for 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes I removed the tea from the fire and stirred it through a flipping motion so that all of the surface area of the tea was evenly exposed to the fire. Again after each stirring, I scooped out the center portion of tea. After about 45 minutes the tea released an incredibly fragrant smell. Toward to end of the baking process, time between stirring was reduced. After 2 hours and 30 minutes, the tea smelled excellent. I took some of the tea and brewed it and decided to let it bake a bit longer. Then after a little while I tasted the tea again, I decided it was ready, and I removed it from the fire and placed it in a bag.
Days later I tasted the tea again and it had a different even smoother woody flavor that had slowly developed in the tea. When my tea teachers tasted the tea, they both nodded their approval. It was a success!
J-Tea Leaf House Hours
The Teashop is open everyday except Friday and Saturday. Hours are from 11AM to 6PM
J-Tea Leaf House Location
We are located at 2778 Friendly St., across the street from the Friendly Street Market.
Come by to see our new selection of tea and tea ware.
©2007 J-TEA International. All rights reserved. Last updated 10/14/07 . Questions or comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org