An Aha Moment -- So That's Tea!

 A week ago I was in San Francisco to expand my tea knowledge and Experiences (That is, Experience with a capital “E”) by attending Level 4 STI (Specialty Tea Institute) class while sampling the many tea cultures of the City. STI and the Level 4 instructors surprised us with providing fresh Hawaiian tea leaves to process into white, green, oolong, and black teas. Absolutely an outstanding opportunity for those of us who have not had the opportunity to visit a country of origin – yet!!! Being a participant in the processing of these tea-leaves provided me an “Aha Moment.”

All of a sudden, all I had learned and read about the where’s, what’s, and how’s of tea made sense. To actually witness the oxidation of the leaves is miraculous. We have all witnessed the oxidation of an apple or banana and perhaps a leaf but I actually watched a leaf oxidize while knowing that the degree of this process determined the level of the tea’s essence. Interestingly, my most favorite part of tea is watching the “agony of the leaf” where the tea gently opens releasing its stored oils and flavors. Being an active participant in the leaf becoming tea was a natural happening that complimented my awe of the “agony of the leaf.”

Join me while I return to this process through photos. I hope you will be as amazed as I was with the transformation from leaf to tea. These pictures are a sampling of the stages of the tea producing process and should not be considered to reflect the stages of the entire process.

This photo is fresh tea leaves as they arrived from Hawaii. At this stage the leaves are still stiff with very little, if any, oxidation. The browning you see on some of leaves is the beginning of oxidation. These leaves were plucked several days before we received them in San Francisco so oxidation had begun. The withering (softening and reduction of moisture) process is beginning.

 

The following photos prThis tea is processed to be a green tea. Heat is being applied to stop oxidation.ovide a sampling of the changes the leaves experience as they go from fresh leaves to tea. Each step reflects a greater reduction of the moisture content of the leaf.

 The leaves are continuously stirred to avoid burning while reducing the moisture content.

These leaves have been rolled to encourage oxidation. This became an oolong tea.Oolong tea is rolled and pan fired several times to create the desired taste.