Winter is the time for baking tea. As the temperature drops, there is nothing nicer than roasting oolong. The entire teahouse is filled with a spectacularly sweet aroma. One thing I learned about on this most recent trip to Taiwan is how to create a space for baking oolong tea. I've done my best to create the ideal space here in the teahouse. The size of the room that the tea will be baked is important and is related to the size of the tea roaster. The most preferable ratio for the baking room to the tea roaster is 10 to 1 meaning that one could fit 10 tea bakers on the floor of the tea baking room. In preparing the space, it was thoroughly cleaned, taking special care to remove any substances that might contaminate the tea. Because tea is very sensitive, the area of tea baking should be enclosed. Though the enclosed space is necessary, air circulation is also important, so at both ends of the teahouse the windows are open just a crack to allow a slight stream of air to pass through the baking room. After all conditions are met in the house, it is important to wait for the right weather. Tea cannot be baked if it is raining because of the overall increased humidity. Baking tea is the process of removing moisture from the leaves and therefore dry weather is ideal for baking tea.
Last week, I baked a batch of Gui Fei Mei Ren here in the teahouse. Gui Fei Mei Ren is a tightly rolled summer harvest aphid bitten oolong from Dong Ding Mountain in Taiwan. Baking the tea accentuated its honey flavor as well as added a nice toasted aroma. Yummy!
This week, I am baking a batch of Li Shan high mountain oolong. The aroma is sweet and rich while the flavor is deep and full bodied. Winter time is the best time to drink baked oolong tea. With such a rich flavor is not necessary to drink a lot of tea. The rich roasted flavor brings about a warm toasty feeling.