Fresh raw materials of dark tea mainly consist of fresh tea leaves ranging from the first-grade to fourth grade leaves and stalks.
1st Grade-1 bud and 3~4 leaves-mainly used to make Tian Jian, Gong Jian loose leaf dark teas.
2nd Grade-1 bud and 4~5 leaves-mainly used to make Gong Jian, Sheng Jian loose leaf dark teas.
3rd Grade-1 bud and 5~6 leaves-mainly used to make Flower Bricks, Hua Juan, Top Grade Fu-Bricks.
4th Grade-large leaves and stalks-mainly used to Standard Fu-Bricks, Black Bricks.
First picking-Mid May
Second picking-Mid July
Third Picking-Late September to early October
Traditional AnHua dark tea process through five steps:
Sha Qing/Kill Green-Fixation
The main purpose of fixation is to sabotage and passivate oxidase in the fresh leaves and to inhibit tea polyphenols from oxidation through high-temperature streaming. During this process, part of water in the leaves evaporates and leaves become soft, which is good for shaping and promoting the formation of a good aroma.
Chu Rou-First Kneading
The main purpose of kneading is to undermine the leaf cells to make the tea sap attach to the surface. It creates the conditions for the next procedure and makes the initial leaves strips.
Piling is the unique dark tea manufacturing process and a key process in the formation of dark tea. Through this special procedure, a series of complex chemical changes occur within the leaves. Thus, the unique color, smell and taste of dark tea form.
The main purpose of re-kneading is to shape leaves into strips after piling. It further damages leaf cells on the basis of kneading to enhance the tightness end fragrance.
A handwork baking method is taken. The tea leaves are baked in a specially designed stove with pine firewood. Therefore, dark tea has a pine smoky flavor. That’s why dark tea is also called “pine tea”.
The final steps after drying are sorting, packing then the finished dark tea will be placed into different clean and dry storerooms for further fermenting and aging.