Bai Ya Qi Lan is produced in Pinghe County of South Fujian. It is one of the four famous teas of Fujian, with the other three Tie Kuan Yin, Wuyi Rock Tea and Zhangping Shui Xian. It is a Oolong Tea with outstanding quality. In processing, it is similar to Tie Kuan Yin, while it has its own special characters.
The record shows that in the Qianlong Era of Qing Dynasty (around 1750s), a farmer found a strange tea tree growing at the side of Pengxi Well at the foot of Daqinshan. This tea tree grew quite well with shiny greyish green color. The farmer was fascinated by the nature of the tea tree. So he plucked some fresh leaves from it, and made a oolong tea with South Fujian tea processing style. This tea turned out to be a great success. It had fantastic long lasting orchid flavor, and mellow sweet aftertaste. So this tea was named as Qi Lan. (Qi Lan is Chinese meaning ‘strange orchid’). And later, because the tea trees germinated greyish white color tea buds in Spring, they added Bai Ya (White bud) in front of the name. So it became Bai Ya Qi Lan.
Bai Ya Qi Lan Mother Tree and Breedings
Bai Ya Qi Lan cultivar was planted in Daqingshan and its around areas. Daqinshan is the highest mountain of South Fujian which has dense forestry covering and good ecological system.
Mt.Daqingshan and the tea gardens in Daqingshan
The tea gardens were generally built above the altitude 800m, and the farmers there practiced the traditional way of management of tea gardens. The tea trees grows in a very natural way and Bai Ya Qi Lan tea is not polluted by any chemicals.
Plucking and Processing of Bai Ya Qi Lan
The plucking standard of Bai Ya Qi Lan is one bud two leaves to three leaves, and it can not be more than four leaves. The plucking is conducted in sunny days. And the tea plucked during 9:00am-16:00pm makes the best quality Bai Ya Qi Lan according to the experience. The plucking season in Spring is middle of April and early May.
Plucking timing of Bai Ya Qi Lan
2 Sunlight Withering
After the fresh leaves are sent to the processing works, the leaves will be spread on the bamboo plate under sunlight for withering for around one hour.
Sunlight withering of Bai Ya Qi Lan
3 Liang Qing (晾青)
After Sunlight Withering, the tea will undergo Liang Qing. The tea will be put indoors with natural ventilation. During this processing, the tea leaves warmed up by Sunlight Withering will cool down and also it helps the water re-distribute evenly in the leaf structure. This processing will last for around one hour.
Indoor withering of Bai Ya Qi Lan
4 Make Green (做青)
After Liang Qing, it is already at night. Make Green is conducted at night time. It is one of the most critical processings of Bai Ya Qi Lan. This processing is divided into two handling. One is Shake Green, the other is Put Static.
During Shake Green, the rubbing and colliding of leaves will damage the cells on the edge and surface of tea leaves. The juice from the broken cells will produce enzyme catalysis (fermentation).The follow-up Put Static handling is conducted to leave enough time for the fermentation. Put Static will last around 1-1.5 hours. Then it will conduct another round of Shake Green-Put Static. Bai Ya Qi Lan Tea need five rounds of Shake Green-Put Static handling. Generally, the later Shake Greens will be more intensively conducted. In the end of the processing, roughly thirty percent of a leaf structure was damaged and fermented, seventy percent remain intact and un-fermented. Which is an ideal fermentation degree of Oolong Tea. In Chinese, it is called as 三红七绿 (three red seven green), as an experience rule.
The Make Green processing will take one whole night to finish. It is very exhausting work and requires very high performance of the tea worker. The worker need to judge the temperature, humidity and leaf nature to decide the intensivity and timing of handling. And also they should move the bamboo plate professionally to produce proper shaking of tea leaves. It requires experience and insight. It is a kind of artistic work.
Make Green of Bai Ya Qi Lan
After the quality was formed by Make Green, Frying will be conducted to stabilize the quality. The traditional processing of Bai Ya Qi Lan uses pan-frying. During Frying, the high temperature will kill the enzymes in both the broken and intact cells. So the inner change of tea leaves stopped. The broken parts turn out to be the nature of black tea, and the intact parts turn out to be the nature of green tea. This is Oolong Tea.
Frying of Bai Ya Qi Lan
The next processing are Rolling and Baking. Bai Ya Qi Lan need undergo three times of Rolling and three times of Baking (三揉三烘).
6 1st Rolling
It’s very unique that in Pinghe it formed the tradition of conducting Rolling by feet. The smart workers can use the feet skillfully to roll the tea into exquisite tight body. It requires very strictly on the health condition of t he workers. The long history tradition shows that it has no sanitary problem brought by the feet operation.
Enough rolling is very important to the quality, especially the tea appearance.
1st Rolling of Bai Ya Qi Lan
7 1st Baking
Baking is one of the other critical processing of Bai Ya Qi Lan. Traditional Baking use charcoal heat. Though electric heating become popular nowadays, it is generally believed that charcoal heat baking produce better quality tea.
The after rolling tea is put on the bamboo basket, and the charcoal is burning under it. During the baking, smoke is definitely not allow to occur.
The whole baking processing is not done in one time. It is separated into three times. The 1st baking will leave around 40% water content. And the tea leaves are still soft.
1st Baking of Bai Ya Qi Lan
8 2nd Rolling
The 2nd time rolling is also called as Bao Rou (包揉), which means packed rolling. The tea is packed by a cloth bag and then it is rolled by feet again. During this handling, the hard force will roll and compress the tea inside the cloth bag. And the tea will be shaped into the tight round granules. Pinghe people call the shape as Qing Ting Tou-dragonfly head. It is a bit like the shape of Tie Kuan Yin.
2nd Rolling of Bai Ya Qi Lan
9 2nd Baking
The 2nd time baking is conducted as the 1st baking. While in this processing, the temperature is lower and it will last longer time. Around 20%water content will be left in the tea leaves after the processing. They leaves are still soft for next rolling.
2nd Baking of Bai Ya Qi Lan
10 3rd Rolling
The 3rd time rolling is also Bao Rou, packed rolling. The rolling will further make the tight round granule shape. The exquisite dragonfly head is finally formed.
3rd Rolling of Bai Ya Qi Lan
11 3rd Baking
The 3rd time baking will finally dry the the tea, and the shape is fixed after enough dry. In this processing, the temperature is lower than previous bakings and it will last longer time. After the water content is lower than 6-7%, the whole processing is finished.
3rd Baking of Bai Ya Qi Lan
This is the Bai Ya Qi Lan product, with the characteristics of tightly round dragonfly head looks, fragrant orchid flavor and full-bodied pure taste.
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Tags: Bai Ya Qi Lan Oolong Tea