Saturday, May 7, 2016

Making Green Tea at Boseong

Seoul Hiking Group advertised going to the Boseong tea plantation and making green tea. While I've been to the plantation a couple of times and leisurely walked around, making green tea there would be a novelty. Green tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis, a plant that grows 2-4 feet high. It is also the plant that makes white tea, black tea and oolong tea, depending on the processes.

Green tea is wilted through heat-curing and has a denser composition than white tea, although for both teas, the youngest tea leaves are used. Green tea is neither fermented nor oxidized in its preparation process, and so its unoxidized leaves retain their color; hence, the name of the tea is derived from the green water coloration. Its caffeine level is about 20mg per serving.
White tea undergoes the least processing among the teas made from the Camellia Sinensis leaf. The young buds and leaves are plucked, washed and then steamed or fired to inactivate oxidation. They are then dried. The presence of buds lessens the grassy flavor and gives the tea a fragile light flavor. Some sites state that the white tea processing retains the highest antioxidants and lowest caffeine count (15mg per serving) while another states that the presence of young buds and leaves gives a high concentration of caffeine.
Black tea is made from tea leaves which are oxidized in the drying process, causing their leaves to darken and release tannins. The drying process is a full fermentation process, giving the tea a darker and stronger flavor, which also boosts the caffeine count to roughly half that of coffee. Of course the caffeine level depends on the preparation process (40mg per serving). 
Oolong tea is made from partially fermented leaves before curing, which releases the tannins and makes the tea darker and richer and very complex in flavor. Oolong tea is partially fermented and partially oxidized before it undergoes the drying process and is curled into dried cake-like pieces or cakes.
Oxidation and Fermentation in Tea Manufacture

Early in May the Boseong tea plantation hosts the Boseong Tea Festival, and during the festival, because we were such a large group, the green tea making process was free. [I don't understand the logic. I guess as guest we would be making a lot of purchases and buying locally made products, but the typical fee for the green tea making experience is currently W15,000. That would be a lot of revenue for the plantation if they were to collect!]

Green Tea Making Experience

A long building is set-up as the tea-making experience room. About six people can gather around one rustic table and make a batch of green tea together. A large basket of freshly picked green tea leaves is dumped on a thick linen on the table and all people in the group set about plucking bad leaves and thick stems from the collection.

The sorted leaves are then transferred to a very large aluminum cauldron for wilting the leaves. The leaves are then Pressed for 3-4 seconds against the bottom of the cauldron and then fluffed away from the cauldron to both keep them from burning but to also cool them to prevent them heating too quickly. Press and fluff. Press and fluff. The leaves are very fragile and must not be burned. This process is for 4-5 minutes. 

Remove the leaves and transfer them back to the linen. Everyone then grabs a large handful of leaves and rolls and massages them into a wad. The idea is to press moisture out and to soften the stems and lightly bruise the leaves for the next roasting.

The leaves are again transferred into the cauldron and the same steps are followed: roast for a few seconds and fluff.

The leaves are transferred back to the table, allowed to cool and then again rolled. The rolling shouldn't be as rough as before. The leaves are becoming fragile and must not be overly torn.

 Back and forth we went. Into the cauldron to lightly roast for 4-5 minutes but avoiding any kind of burning. Back to the table to cool. The massaging was only done the first three times, but that probably depends on how quickly the roasting process is coming along.

The leaves are still green but darkening in their depth of green. This means the leaves are not being oxidized and will retain high amounts of antioxidants.

Once the leaves have darkened and have become quite fine and lost their moisture, they are ready for tasting and, after they cool, packaging. The whole process took about an hour. Of course it would have taken a lot longer if we had actually gone to the field and picked our own.

Each team member got his or her small bag of green tea to take home and enjoy at leisure!

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