The expression in Chinese ‘kan cha, zuo cha‘ is saying ‘Make tea according to what you find, according to the situation.’ or as my grandfather used to say “Conditions determine.”
In light of some recent online discussion on withering tea, I thought it worth revistiting the topic here.
The debate centers around a couple of issues; Why are some Sheng ‘greener’ than others. The second issue is the supposition that the degree of ‘green-ness’ in a young Sheng Puer is determined largely by the length of time that the fresh leaves are withered.
This is a fair assumption, but it’s a partial reality. Wilt time, as previously said, will have some affect on the flavour and appearance of tea, but so also will the provenance, the type of trees, the season, the method and degree of drying and also the method of drying the pressed cakes. Last but not least, how long the mao cha is stored for prior to pressing, and where the tea is subsequently stored will also impact the teas flavour and appearance.
Two most common reasons that a Sheng Puer will seem more ‘green tea’ like are these:
Shaqing/frying temeperature: a higher temperature (say 90 + C) will do this.
The tea isn’t sun-dried and the temperature of drying is a little high.
Habits vary in different areas, and from season to season. Some farmers do not wilt at all, others wilt in the spring but much less in autumn. Wilting may be done for 40 minutes or for a few hours.
‘Kan cha, zuo cha‘ – A farmer is less looking at his watch than looking at the tea, feeling it, smelling it in order to decide when to start each step of the process – from picking to drying.
As teas from different regions and different farmers vary, so do ours. What works well for one tea, may not work well for another. No two teas are made exactly the same. What we strive for is to produce quality teas from different regions that maintain their uniqueness.