Pi Lo Chun is made of hand-picked tea leaves just for a leaf and its bud.
This rare Chinese green tea can only be made once a year in the spring.
For two weeks after the spring equinox and before the heavier rains, the most tender buds with one partly opened leaf ("sparrow's tongue") are plucked.
And its process is very fine, undergoes picking fresh leaves, pan firing, rolling and drying.
All is done by hand-handpicked, handsorted and handfired on the same day.
The making process consists of three stages:
Picking (5 to 9 A.M.)
Picking any high-grade Chinese green tea is a tedious process, and especially so for Bi Luo Chun tea. Each pick consists of a terminal bud with an adjacent leaf. A standard pick measures 1.6 to 2.0 centimeters.
One kilogram can have 14,000 to 15,000 tea shoots. It was said that the highest record ever known was 18,000.
Sorting (9 A.M. To 3 P.M.)
This tea is sorted by hand, one by one. The sorting process removes any sub standard leaves. A high quality should consist entirely of young tea buds and slightly opened leaves, and nothing else.
Roasting (about 40 minutes)
Shaqing(fixation) applies high heat to kill the enzymes and halt the oxidation, or fermentation process. The process lasts 3 to 5 minutes. The wok temperature ranges from 190 to 200 degree Celsius.
Rounian(Rolling) follows. Using 3 distinct hand movements, Bi Luo Chun tea is rolled into spirals. The process lasts 20 to 25 minutes. The wok temperature reduces to 70 - 75 degree Celsius. Moisture reduces to 30% to 40%.
Cuotuan(Twisting) follows. Tea leaves spiral up and start to lump together. As color turns from green to gray, white hairs start to gather and show up.
It might sound strange, but young tea shoots are naturally covered by baby white hairs. To many people, they are a sign of quality.
The process lasts 15 minutes. The wok temperature reduces to 50 - 60 degree Celsius. Moisture reduces to 20%.
Honggan(Drying) applies low heat to dry the tea to about 7% moisture.The process lasts 6 to 8 minutes. The wok temperature ranges from 30 to 40 degree Celsius.
Yes, they may look like a bit dark, curly snails but pop them into a glass of hot water and they will spring into life-bright green tea shoots-one by one.Due to the stringent selection process for high quality leaves, this tea is not widely available.