I thought I’d share this documentary showing Master Huang and his sons making Wuyi Yancha. His eldest son (Shen Hui) gives much of the commentary, but Master Huang can be seen with his sons, workers and some of their old trees from 35:00 to 38:50. Unfortunately there are no English subtitles, and there doesn’t seem to be any way that I could add subtitles, but please find below a brief translation of the relevant section. For those who speak Chinese, the rest of the documentary is also very interesting.
34:52 (voice-over) – Of all teas, oolong tea has the most pronounced fragrance. Wuyi yancha is a type of semi-fermented oolong tea. Today, the highest grade of Wuyi yancha is called Da Hong Pao. This name originated from six trees located behind ‘Tian Xin Yong Le’ (Heaven’s heart) Temple.
35:26 – Each year, during the tea harvest, the tea pickers wake up at dawn and hike for over two hours to the tea gardens.
35:34 (Huang Shen Hui) – In Wuyi Mountains, the best quality teas are located in the area known as ‘San Ken Liang Jian’ (Three Peaks, Two Valleys). The tea growing within this area is of a very high quality. The time that the sun hits the leaves for is short, and the leaves grow thick. When brewed, the tea from this area is very full and rich. These bushes are growing deep in the mountains, isolated from the rest of the world like monks practising in retreat, meditating in this peaceful environment. These teas have this kind of feeling.
36:07 (voice-over) – At the end of a day of hard work, the tea pickers carry the leaves for over two hours back to the processing studio. Tian Xin village’s Huang Shen Hui’s [family] still use traditional methods to make Handmade Da Hong Pao.
36:20 (Huang Shen Hui) – In Wuyi Mountains, we speak of three factors that need to be in balance when making tea; the geographical environment, the processing environment and the people. When these three factors come together in harmony, it is possible to make very good tea. One needs a good environment for growing the tea, the best people to process the tea and the best environment to process it in.
36:43 (Huang Shen Hui) – Yao Qing (shaking the leaves) is a very technical process. When the water content of the leaves is correct the edges of the leaves will slightly redden due to the beginning of oxidation.
During Sha Qing (the kill green stage) the wok reaches temperatures over 200°C. If not careful, your hands will blister.
When rolling, we use baskets with pronounced edges, and the manner resembling the practice of Tai Qi. Your hands need to be quite flexible, moving left to right, right to left to curl the leaves. To curl the leaves you use internal strength.
High-quality tea needs slowly roasted at a low temperature. We use charcoal to roast slowly for 20 hours.
37:33 (voice-over) – The highest grades can be roasted nine times. At the end of the process, the dry leaves are light, smooth to touch, with a gentle sheen. The leaves resemble a Loach [long thin fish], giving rise to the name “fired Loach” (泥鳅火).
37:48 (Huang Shen Hui) – When tasting Wuyi Tea, we taste noisily to complement the tea. This is ‘Cuo Cha’ (slurping the tea). Slurping the tea allows the tea to reach each part of your mouth. The strengths and weaknesses of the tea will become apparent on the surface of the tongue.
38:11 (voice-over) – Each year, Huang Shen Hui will bring this season’s handmade Da Hong Pao for the Abbot of Heaven’s Heart monastery to taste.
37:48 (Huang Shen Hui) – In earlier times, we lived inside the mountains in an area called ‘Shui Lian Dong’, very close to Heaven’s Heart Temple. Afterwards, I ended up living in the temple for six years.
38:26 (Abbot) – We’re grateful to everyone who drinks our tea, they make us who we are.
38:35 (Huang Shen Hui) – This experience gave me another feeling about tea. When I returned from the monastery, I made the determination that I would like to spend my whole life with tea.