Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a tea factory. A friend was pressing a few bings of taidicha (plantation tea). Content to wait for a week or two until some quality 2008 Spring Gu Shu Maocha arrives, I accompanied her just for fun.

The owner’s wife, being an ex-teacher, spoke great English and was happy to show me around the factory and explain the process of pressing a bingcha.

For those of you on slow connections, I apologise for the photo-rich post. As usual, for those of you who wish, you can click on the photos for larger versions.

The leaves, after the relevant processing (Sha Qing, withering and rolling) arrive at the factory in large bags

Arrival at the factory

From where they are graded (for Shu Cha) according to their size

Machine to grade the leaves

And sorted

Sorting

to remove any yellowed leaves or other rubbish.

Removing yellowed leaves
Picking out general rubbish

They are sprayed with water to prevent excessive breakage during handling and pushed down tubes into the pressing room.

Spray with water

The Maocha is given one last inspection by a quality control supervisor

Inspection of leaves on pressing room floor

and weighed individually for each bing.

Weigh leaves for each bing

The correct weight of maocha is inserted into a metal tube and placed over a jet of steam.

Place in metal tube and steam

This greatly softens the maocha and prepares it to be placed into a cloth bag.
The bag is compressed by hand, and twisted in the centre. This twisted excess bag is the cause of the dome in the centre of the back of most bingcha’s.

Transfer steamed leaves into cloth bag and twist down in centre

The bag is then placed under a stone press, which is gently rocked in a circular fashion.

Put bag under stone press and rock gently

And then placed on a rack to dry slightly.

Place on wooden rack

Each bing is then removed from it’s bag and placed in a heated room to remove the remaining moisture from the bing and prevent moulding. The heated pipes on the floor keep this room around 45ºC, with a sauna-like quality to the air. The smell in here was delicious.

Remove from cloth bag and transfer to drying room

When sufficiently dried, each bing is then individually wrapped and parcelled into a tong (made of thick paper in this case).

Packaging the tongs

The factory also had a selection of Da Shu (Big tree) Maocha’s available to purchase & were happy to brew a selection for us to try. Their standard brewing method was to infuse 5g for 5mins to bring out any negative aspects that each tea could exhibit. None seemed exceptionally special to my tastes though, so I declined the polite offer to be able to purchase any, although they promised to make me a bing of my favourite and send it back with my friend’s newly pressed bings.

Comparing some Maocha's

In all, a great day out. Interesting, educational, and we got to drink tea!

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