Since 2010, Yubai has operated a small tea factory with her family in Jingmai mountain. Two woks, a rolling machine, four sets of flat bamboo baskets and a couple of bamboo mattresses are all that are required to make artisanal Pu-erh tea. We dry tea in open spaces around the factory, and we have a greenhouse ready for use during the rainy days. At full capacity, we can produce 30kg of dried Pu-erh tea per day with five workers. This production capacity Hand-processing tea significantly limits our production capacity. We do not consider buying a frying machine because hand-processing allows for better control over tea quality.
We wither our tea on bamboo mattresses and flat baskets. Withering time depends on temperature, and we know when it's ready by looking at the leaf texture, smell and water content. Withering time ranges from a couple of hours for Pu-erh tea to over a day for black and oolong tea. For making Moonlight White, we spread the leaves over the flat bamboo baskets and leave them for three days.
In our tea factory, we always do the kill-green process (Sha Qing) in woks, this gives better control over quality than kill-green machine processing, each batch can be finely tuned. Woodfire heats our woks. We get our wood from the shade trees of our tea gardens and nearby forests. When making Pu-erh tea, wok temperature can be adjusted throughout the kill-green session by putting in or taking out firewood. It takes 20 to 40 minutes to process 5kg of fresh leaves. The purpose of the kill-green process is to heat the tea leaves to destroy the enzymes responsible for oxidation and to reduce water content.
It is important to wash the wok between each couple of batches; otherwise, many burnt leaf residues will be visible in the tea soup.
After the kill-green process is done, the leaves will stop turning red. Green tea requires a high-temperature kill-green process to make sure heat inactivates all of the enzymes. For Pu-erh tea, the temperature must not be too high so as to preserve the most temperature-resistant enzymes actives and therefore ensure long term aging. It will take those enzymes years to oxidize the leaves fully!
Using a rolling machine gives a better result than hand-rolling: it applies a stronger and more consistent force over the leaves. Black and oolong tea processing can require over an hour of rolling per batch. Rolling has the purpose of breaking the leaf cells and release their content. If applied before the kill-green process, it will accelerate oxidation, the leaves will be entirely red in a couple of hours, while it would have taken days without rolling. If done after the kill-green process, the purpose of rolling is to release the chemical compounds responsible for aroma and taste (polyphenols) to make the brew stronger. If only rolled slightly, a Pu-erh tea will release its component over many infusions at the risk of making feel it bland in the first infusions. If rolled too hard, it can display an astringent brew at the beginning of the session and lack of endurance. Rolling also shapes the leaves and contributes to the tea aspect.
Our teas are sun-dried on bamboo mattresses and flat baskets, when the weather is clear, it takes a couple of hours to dry Pu-erh tea leaves. We must make sure the leaves are dry enough before putting them into bags; otherwise, they might develop undesired characteristics such as fermentation flavors, muddy tea soup, and blandness. On the other hand, overly dried leaves can heat up and become like green tea, releasing nasty bitterness and astringency over floral aromas.
Our tea factory address is:
China Yunnan Province Puer City Lancang Xian Huimin Xiang Jingmai Cun Jingmai Da Zhai 105 Hao