I thought I’d write a short description about the processing styles of Wuyi yancha & show some photos from our trip to Wuyi this Spring.
The processing of Wuyi Yancha can be divided into 3 basic styles depending on the amount of the processing that is done by hand or machine.
1/ Machine Processed
This is harvested by machine, then the tumbling, kill green, rolling and roasting are done by machine.
Below are examples of machine picked tea terraces, and some of the machines used.
These leaves are picked by hand, withered outside, then the tumbling, kill green, rolling and sometimes the roasting are done by machine. The half-handmade yancha we sell are all roasted over charcoal, rather than machine roasted.
Fully handmade yancha is a rarity these days. The time and skill necessary to make a good handmade yancha is being slowly lost as producers tend towards machine production. There are a very few producers still making fully handmade yancha though. The skill and quality amongst these varies wildly.
Fully handmade yancha tends to come from within the protected area since the value of these leaves is higher. The leaves are picked by teams, and carried by hand out to one of the few roads in the park to be transported back to the factory (or in the case of Master Huang, directly to his studio within the park).
They are then laid out to wither in the sun, before being moved indoors for further withering and bruising in bamboo trays
The leaves are then dry-fried in a wok set over a wood fire to halt the oxidation, before being rolled and given an initial roast over charcoal to dry the leaves. These leaves are then sorted by hand. The buds are usually too tender and break during the processing, the first two leaves are selected for the highest grades of yancha, with the larger leaves being selected for lower grades. The stems and yellowed leaves are discarded or sold to be included in restaurant tea (I also saw the farmers keeping a box of them in their toilet to absorb odours!)
The sorted leaves are given a final roast over charcoal to finalise the desired flavour and the leaves are left to rest for ~6 months before being made available for sale.