Making tea in Ali-shan (Taiwan)

The lightly oxidized High Mountain Oolong (Koshan Oolong) tea produced at about 1200 meters up Ali-shan (beyond the city of Chiai) is well-known for its delicate flavor. Here are a few photos outlining the basic process, taken early in May 2009.  The full series of photos can be viewed as a slideshow.

The region is bathed in mist for much of the day

There are tea fields on almost every slope

The top bud and three fresh leaves are picked

The tea is brought down to the drying workshop after picking, packed in large baskets, and weighed:

The fresh leaves are spread in the open air for a few hours to begin the wilting process

After their fragrant smell shows that oxidizing has begun they are taken indoors to continue the wilting

From time to time the leaves are tossed and the fragrance observed. Sometimes they are also tossed in long turning cylinders.

When the required degree of oxidation is reached, the drying process begins in the large stoves at a high temperature. There are no photos of the wonderful smell filling the room.

Then the partially dried leaves are packed tightly in cloth before being rolled by machine

The balls are closed tightly

The balls are placed in slowly turning machines

The process is repeated several times, the period spent in the heated kiln becoming shorter and shorter, and the heat being reduced too. Until at last the tea is completely dry and tightly rolled on itself. Then it is ready to be drunk.