Saturday, February 11, 2012


Written by Pu Jin Jing, a tea farmer from Lincang
As an introduction to Pu-erh tea processing, you can read this article:

The art of making tea
-- Shaqing-- 
What you need to know

Here are the main points you need to take care of while doing the shaqing

1.Inspect the fresh leaves, be sure there are no impurities, take out the reddened leaves (after plucking, improper storage and warm temperature can cause some leaves to oxidate). That way, we avoid to contaminate tea with off-flavors, the whole batch could be affected.

2.Make sure you separate the grades of tea you want to make before doing the Shaqing.

3. On the rainy days, spread the fresh leaves on mats, if the leaves have too much water inside, they are likely to stick to the wok and burn, this would give the tea a roasted taste.

4. Remember to clean the wok between every batch!

5. The wok should be around 100°C. It's hard to measure while doing the job, try to estimate it by putting your hand close to the bottom of the wok, it should burn slightly. When the wok gets too hot, the bottom will turn red, in this case, do not throw a new batch of leaves on it, reduce the fire and wait for the wok to cool down.

Problems related to the wok temperature: 
If the wok is too cold, the leaves won't be reduced enough and they will eventually turn red, with a fermentation taste (in the most extreme cases, it would taste like black tea). If the wok is not hot enough and that you process the leaves for a longer time, they will become darker, after drying, they won't have the fresh taste of young tea and the liquor will be turbid! If the temperature is too high, the leaves will roast and develop a burnt taste, it will also influence the aging potential of tea.

6.Young buds need more time than old leaves to process.
a. The hand-process is a balance between frying and shaking, the more you shake the leaves, the less they will fry, the leaves should reach a temperature of 80°C approximately. Between two batches, don't forget to check the fire!
b. If you use a machine, the amount of leaves you input must remain constant, otherwise the temperature in the cylinder will change. Again, the leaf temperature should be around 80°C! 

7. The Shaqing should take 5 and 10 minutes per batch. It depends on the quantity of leaves and on the bud/leaves ratio.

As a rule of thumb, you should to stop the shaqing when:
     a. the smell of fresh leaves has vanished (not obvious)
     b. the leaves and the stems do not break anymore when you fold them.

8. After the shaqing, the leaves must cool down quickly. If they don't get cold immediately, the liquor will be muddy! The aroma will be weak and impure.

In the art of making tea, many aspects must be controlled, i will go over them in future articles. If there are unclear points or things you disagree about, I invite you to discuss it here.

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