Today we’re going to explore two different processing methods used to make China’s artisan green teas-basket firing and pan firing. Probably the best way to learn about green tea is to try different styles to see what you like. Also learning about the manufacturing process of different varieties and how they’re made, will give you an insight into the qualities, flavors, and characteristics of various styles of green tea.
Basket firing and pan firing are two of the most popular processing methods for China’s green teas. To begin the processing of basket fired green tea, a small amount of fresh leaf is placed in an upright bamboo reed basket, usually made of two pieces resembling an hourglass.
The basket is placed over a heat source, usually, a small brazier or charcoal embers, just hot enough to dry the tea, but not burn the basket. One popular tea made with basket firing is Bi Lo Chun or Green Snail Spring from China’s Jiangsu province. Bi Lo Chun is manufactured with unique handwork that combines a gentle twist and roll resulting in the tea leaf assuming and maintaining the classic shape of neat little spirals resembling the shape of a snail, thus the name Green Snail Spring.
Pan firing accomplishes many of the manufacturing steps in just one process. It fixes the juice in the leaf, reduces moisture content, seals in flavor, and dries the leaf to the proper moisture content before finish firing, and adds a unique toasty flavor to the tea.
Longjing or Dragon Well, one of China’s most famous teas are pan fired. Even though every province in China, as well as every green tea producing region in the world, has tried duplicating the unique pan fired style of Longjing, or Dragon Well, no one has ever been able to replicate its flavor and style.
There are many different styles of firing pans used throughout China, from simple wok-like pans to large factory sized units specially made for tea processing. Two common versions are the wood-fired double pan and the electric fired single pan.
One of China’s Ten Most Famous Teas, Tai Ping Hou Kui, from Anhui province is also one of the most unusual and unique because it is both pans fired and basket fired. After the initial steps, it is the first pan fired in twin wood fired pans and set aside.
Next, it is blotted using rice paper from nearby mills, then re-fired in a traditional one-piece basket over a low fire to “fix” the tea. After resting, the leaf is finish fired, with the end result in a large, flat, bright green whole leaf tea, with the distinctive pattern of the rice paper embedded in the surface of the leaf.
If you’d like to sample these sumptuous green teas, pay a visit to Adagio Teas. Their Bi Lo Chun (sometimes also called pi lo chun) is handmade by farmer Huang Jian Lin in Dongting, Jiangsu Province. Hand-plucked from the finest, most tender buds, it is sweet and floral, with a full body and slight earthiness.
Until next time, Enjoy!
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