Thistle Dew! Farms, Teas 'n Bees

 Making Panyong Congou Tea

Panyong congou teas (Tan Yang Gong Fu), one of the traditional exports of Fujian province, are highly welcomed in foreign and domestic markets for years due to its beautiful appearance and wonderful taste. In recent years, after years of practices, a series of new species such as “ 金针王golden needle king” “ 炒红(red fried tea)are becoming more and more popular. Both won the Gold medal in the International Symposium on tea culture (held at Beijing in 2000). This article is going to show you the general information on how to make “golden needle king” tea.

1. Picking leaves

Picking one bud with one leaf/ two leaves as materials and bag them very carefully.

2. Withering

The first step of making “金针王golden needle king” is withering, which is a natural process and requires a special room( 萎凋室) especially designed for this purpose. Generally, those houses face north with operable windows for a good ventilation convenience to keep an appropriate room temperature of 22 degrees and 70% humidity. Then spread out those picked leaves on a flat ( about 1-1.5kg/m²) bamboo baskets laid on a wooden shelf, make sure that they are not too thin or too thick. Under normal circumstances, this step can be finished in 18-24h. However, there are some exceptions, when in room with a higher temperature and lower humidity it needs 10-12h, in contrast, more labor hours (36-40h) required when in long lasting rainy days.

Premium black tea starts with good withering. Excessive withering may totally spoil the internal organization of cells and bitter the taste, in contrast, if withered not enough, the processed tea incline to smell like grass and taste bad.

3. Rolling

This step are also completed in a specialized, well-ventilated room where has no direct sunlight and room temperature is kept from 20℃ to24℃, and relative humidity is 85-90%. This step also called "disruption" or "leaf maceration", the teas are bruised or torn in order to promote and quicken oxidation. The leaves may be lightly bruised on their edges by shaking and tossing in tossing machinery. Higher destruction rate of cell contributes to fermentation which makes dry leaves look more attractive in shape and have a good taste but not means the higher the better. The rate needed to be controlled between 80-90% to let excessive green leaves juice out and prevent spoilage. If not rolled enough, you will get a cup of tea tasting like green grass, surly, this is not you really want, so this step is crucial.

4. Fermentation

We usually take color, flavor and taste as elementary indicators when we try to figure out one kind of before us is good or not. Whether the color, flavor or tastes actually are all the manifestations of the chemical changes happened in tea leaves interior from the picking time. Those chemical changes (some catalyzed by enzyme) are subject to environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, air quality.

  • 1. Temperature. The indoor temperature of the fermenting room should be controlled between 22℃-24℃, the ultimate temperature is 28C and the appropriate time should be 2h-2.5h. Tea makers usually sprinkle water on the four wars to balance the room temperature if there is any sigh showing that the inside temperature is too high.
  • 2. Humidity. The appropriate relative humidity in fermenting room should be controlled between 85% - 90%.
  • 3. Air quality. The fermenting room also needs to be well-ventilated and avoid direct sunlight.
  • After having being rolled, those tea leaves are going to be spread out in a flat bamboo basket up to about 4cm high, being extra careful not to press them and create enough air volume in tea leaves. The fermentation time depends on the temperature; generally, the whole process needs 3-5h in spring, 1-2h in summer.

    5. Drying

    Different from puer tea making, those half-finished king tea leaves placed in bamboo drying frame are going to be fired twice with charcoal fire, at an interval of cooling time.

    1. First time – open fire and high temperature.

    Overlay a layer of 2cm tea leaves in drying frame then use open fires and shuffle them every one minute to actuate excessive water vapor out. It takes about 15-20min.

    2. Second time- low temperature.

    Different from the first time, this second time needs 4cm tea, 0.5 hour time and 3 times shuffle. Let the bamboo drying frame leave the oven when shuffling to avoid overheating and scorch smell. See and wait them until they begin generating sweet aroma and have slightly spiny hand feeling.

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