The art and craft of tea processing has evolved through centuries of tradition and experience across many cultures. Here are some simple methods you can use to make tea at home with minimal equipment. We hope you enjoy the feel, smell, and taste of making your own homegrown, handmade tea! Tea types, flavors, and colors vary by level of oxidation: green is the least oxidized, followed by white, oolong and black. All kinds of tea benefit from a “low and slow” withering to enhance the aromatics. White tea has the fewest steps and is not rolled, while other types typically require rolling. For green tea, leaves are heated to inactivate enzymes that transform catechins into theaflavins and thearubigins. These components are part of what contribute to the unique flavors of green versus black and oolong. To create oxidized tea, the leaves are manipulated to release enzymes, creating the theaflavins/thearubigins.
Use clean equipment (dedicated to tea, if possible) so your teas do not take on the smells or tastes of other foods.
Processed tea dries down to about 20% its wet weight – a small handful of fresh leaves will usually be enough for a six-ounce cup of tea.
Rolling - Wrap the leaves in a clean cloth, forming a ball, and roll against a hard surface, applying firm pressure. Open the cloth several times during rolling and break up the ball of leaves. By the end, you should be able to squeeze juices from the leaves through the cloth. (For small amounts, you can roll the tea between the palms of your hands.)
Storage - Tea should be stored in an airtight container away from light – preferably no more than 6-12 months.
Two leaves and a bud for green and black tea.
(Small leaf Camellia sinensis var sinensis.)
One leaf and a bud for white tea - note white hairs on buds and undersides of new leaves.
Harvest 1 bud or 1 leaf and a bud, preferably in the morning.
Spread on a tray in an area with good air circulation, not too dry
Let wither 2-3 days (or until leaves look like they are starting to dry out).
Dry at a low temperature, 180℉, 15-20 minutes or more, until crispy.
Dried white tea shows signs of oxidation (darkness) and a high concentration of "hair" from the new leaf bud and underside of young leaves.
Withered tea leaves – this step is the first in processing green, oolong and black tea – results in loss of moisture and supple leaves for rolling.
After heating, leaves of green tea will keep a brighter color and be soft and moist to the touch.
Harvest 2 leaves and a bud, preferably plucked in the morning.
Spread the leaves out and wither for 4 to 8 hours.
Roast leaves in a dry pan for 5 minutes, or steam them for 30-60 seconds.
Spread out leaves to cool, then roll firmly as described (above)
Dry in an oven at 185 to 200℉
Harvest 2 leaves and a bud, or a coarser pluck of 3-4 leaves.
Let wither for 12-24 hours, but without letting the leaves dry out.
Roll firmly as described above, but without heating as in green tea.
Spread out the wet, rolled leaves, for 2 to 8 hours, when leaves are brassy colored. (Reaction is faster in warm, humid environment)
Dry at 200 to 250℉, 10-15 minutes, then 180-200℉ >10 min until crispy
Red/brassy color developing as green leaves oxidize into "black tea."
Dried black tea is not entirely black, nor is the brew, traditionally known as "red tea."