How is Ti Kuan Yin tea (Tie Guan Yin) made?

  • Ti Kuan Yin making is 13-16 hour long and labor-intensive process. It is a state of art, rather than a state of science. The "right" way depends on a lot of uncontrollable factors, such as the amount of dew on fresh tea leaves, strong or weak sunlight, or the moisture in the air, etc. It is therefore up to tea masters to determine what should happen during each step. Not until the end can we know the final quality of a tea batch.
  • Tea Leaf Plucking
    Plucking tea leaves usually happen between 9:30am and 3:30pm. The best time to pluck is 2pm to 3pm in the afternoon during a sunny and lightly windy day. One pluck usually contains 1 shoot and 2-3 tea leaves.
  • Sun Dry
    The freshly plucked leaves are spread out thinly over a bamboo matting or other material which keep the leaves from contact with the earth. The shoots are wilted under the sun for 5-30 minutes, depending on the temperature. This process is so critical that without it will be impossible to make high-quality Ti Kuan Yin. As tea growers, we prey for good weather.
  • Shake
    Put tea leaves into a rotating container made of bamboo and shake it. This process shakes out unwanted materials and soften the surface of tea leaves. More moisture content will evaporate from the tea leaves. How long this process takes usually depends on the aroma and the changing color of tea leaves.
  • Air Dry - Wither
    Tea leaves are then taken indoors, where they are left to wither at room temperature for a number of hours. During this period the leaves are gently agitated by hand every hour. This process causes the edge of the leaf to turn red, and the moisture content drops about 20%. These controlled actions cause the biochemical reactions and enzymatic processes in the leaf, which in turn produce the unique aromas and colors found in Oolong teas.
  • Roast
    After this time, the withered leaves are fired either by hand in a pan or in a mechanical roaster at between 250 – 300 0C for about 15 minutes. This removes most moisture and stops the enzymatic process from continuing further.
  • Roll / Fire / Dry
    This step, together with the following two steps, is the most time consuming and labor-intensive step in the whole process. These three steps are usually repeated about 10-18 times for tea leaves to reach desired shape. This process is like the opposite of serving tea: it curls a flat tea leaf into a twisted-wiry looking shape.

    Roll: tea leaves are put into a 4-15 pounds bag, which is rolled into a ball-shape and squeezed tightly. In old days tea makers used to step on the bag and use body weight to squeeze it. Nowadays people use machinery.

    Fire: the leaves are then taken out, loosened, and dried out a little bit using slow fire. This helps tea leaves to form its final curly-shape.

    Dry: tea leaves are then spread out on bamboo mat to cool off.

    The above three process will reduce the moisture level to about 3%.
  • Final Pick
    High-quality Oolong tea contains only tea leaves with similar color and size. The final picking process separate shoots and tea leaves and pick same size tea leaves into one batch. The smaller or broken tea leaves, as well as tea shoots, are then shredded into powder to make tea bags.
  • Package
    To guarantee freshness and fragrance, premium Ti Kuan Yin should be packaged into small vacuum-sealed bags that is good for one Kongfu serving or 2-3 casual servings. In room temperature, a vacuum-sealed bag can keep the tea fresh for up to 18 months, compared to up to one month while tea is left exposed to air.