The Master and the Leaf
If you visit Long Jing village you can walk around town and see people processing tea in woks – doing their work that needs to be done, but also putting on a show to bring a crowd and sell some tea. Why not, if your family's house happens to be at the crossroads of one of the busiest tourist areas of northern China?
Master Yip does not live in Long Jing village, he lives down the road quite a ways. He also lives down a side road from a little tract of houses and his processing facility is in the back of his house. You wouldn’t think to find him here, but surprises often come in places where most people don’t look. He has been processing tea for over 30 years, and he’s one of the best around. He taught us the hand movements involved in processing Long Jing tea. First, the wok is heated to 200+ degrees. He uses an electrical wok, since he learned to process it that way in the 1960’s. When the wok reaches temperature, some grains of hard oil are placed in the wok and rubbed around with a cloth. When the wok is primed, 100 g of raw tea are placed in the wok and moved around. There are specific steps to processing and the processing happens twice, in Stage 1 and Stage 2. To learn stage one processing it takes 3 years of training. Then, if you’re good, you might be taught stage 2. To learn stage 2 processing, it takes 3 more years.
When Master Yip finally adds the tea to the hot oiled wok, he first he presses it into the bottom of the wok then pulls it up the side of the wok. He “fluffs” the tea, and lets it fall back into the wok. Then, he presses the tea, circles it around the wok and fluffs the tea. This step lasts 20 minutes. After this the tea rests and waits for the second step.
Step 2 processing happens after the tea has rested and cooled. The second step is called the Grind. Master Yip pushes the tea into the bottom of the wok 3 times- push push push- then circles the tea around the wok and pulls it up the side of the wok and flips the tea over and fluffs it. In the last stage, a glove is worn to absorb any excess tea oil and to "polish" the tea. This is traditional tea processing at it's best. Here's a link to a video of traditional Dragonwell tea processing.