I have a predilection for roasted oolongs. As the colder weather is creeping in again, I’ve begun to crave them more and more these days. Over the last few years I’ve experimented a bit with various methods of roasting to create that toasty caramel sweet flavour I love. I started with some experiments using a saucepan, then a rice cooker and hand roaster/refreshener.
A year or so ago I decided to try to do things a bit more properly & picked up a commercial roaster during a trip to Taiwan. I did a couple of test roastings soon after I got home with unsatisfactory results. It seemed the temperature wouldn’t go high enough to create the strong roast that I desired. With other commitments taking up my time, the roaster got forgotten about and left largely unused.
Recently I fished it out from beneath the stairs and decided to allocate a jin (600g) of a decent quality Li Shan oolong to some experiments with roasting.
This time, it worked. The dial on the roaster seems to function largely as a guide, not reflecting at all the correct temperature inside the basket, but with the aid of a probe thermometer I was able to fairly accurately regulate the temperature.
It seems the crucial difference this time was the quantity of tea used. This time the 600g of oolong was enough to cover the mesh inside and insulate the heated portion of the basket.
The first roast (80oC 1hr, 120oC 4hrs, 80oC 1hr) produced a nice medium roasted taste and aroma, while the second roast (after waiting a few days for the leaves to rest) produced a more roasted taste, but lacked the strength of aroma. I’m not sure of the reason, but one factor might be that the leaves were still hot when I transferred them to a purion teajar after roasting. The second time I left the leaves to cool in the roaster first before transferring them.
So… here’s the results after 2 roasts. I think I’ll continue roasting several more times, saving a few grams of leaves at each stage to see how far I can go with this tea.