Processing Bi Lo Chun tea
There’s a flood of fake tea on the general market. Seriously. You can get just about any tea, any grade from any date. Just ask for it. “Dragonwell” made from tea from Fujian, (except it tastes rougher and less chestnutty, but it’s hard to tell if you aren’t paying attention) “Bi Lo Chun” can be faked and can come from different counties very far from Suzhou where it originates. But you really know where your tea is coming from when you get it directly from the farmer in the growing area that it traditionally comes from and that’s just what we did. Bi Lo Chun comes from Golden Mountain, and Ms Yang and her daughter Miss Yang picked tea the morning we visited with them and Mr Yang showed let us film him while he processed it. That's about as authentic as a tea can get!
The wok is heated with propane and Mr Yang knows how high to heat it when he holds his hands over the hot wok and the temperature feels right, about 200 degrees Celsius. No oil is added to the wok, and the tea goes straight in and makes a sizzling sound as it hits the wok. The tea is pulled in and – the best way I can describe this is that the tea is “kneaded” backwards, then fluffed.
Then, the tea is pushed in circles around the wok, and finally, hand rolled. This is very labor intensive and the whole process lasts 45 minutes and produces about 12 ounces of tea. There is no first and second processing in Bi Lo Chun, the tea is processed all in one go.
This tea was from the April 7th harvest and tasted better than the first batch of tea we tried that was picked the day before. We ate lunch with the Yangs and decided to buy the whole batch we saw processed for a few reasons: it tasted amazing, we are absolutely certain this authentic Bi Lo Chun, and we know it was hand processed by the man whose family grew and picked the tea. We think this a great illustration of one of China’s 10 famous teas and it is certainly a tea you should add your collection to appreciate great Chinese teas. This tea is generally enjoyed at lower temperatures of 160-170, for the 3rd and 4th steepings, you can bring your water temperature up to 180 or 190 and do a quick short steeping. Cheers!