by Claire Hou
Xiaohusai’s main export is tea, but what kind? While pu’erh is popular, farmers can actually use the tea leaves that they pick every day to make many different types of tea.
1. Pu'erh Tea
Pu’erh tea is the classic, and the default for many farmers. Fresh tea leaves are fried in a special tea-roasting wok. Recently, there has been an emergence of tea-roasting machines, but the farmers in Xiaohusai assure us that the tea does not taste nearly as good when machine-made. After the frying process, the slightly damp leaves have to be kneaded like dough for roughly 15-20 minutes, before being left out to dry. After sufficient time under the sunlight, the leaves become crisp and ready to steep!
2. Black Tea
Black tea is another quite popular variety of tea. Unlike pu’erh tea, making black tea does not require the leaves to be roasted. The first step of the process is to leave fresh leaves out in the sun to dry for one or two days. It’s important not to give them too much sun, though older tea needs to be left out a little longer. The leaves should then be kneaded by hand for 15-20 minutes. What makes black tea special is that next, it has to be fermented, often in a basket. This just includes sealing off the air circulation to the basket while the leaves are still moist, and leave them there for around 8 hours. The resulting tea leaves will look slightly red and golden, and the taste is relatively mild compared to pu’erh tea.
3. White Tea
White tea is much lesser-known compared to the other two, and seems to be sort of an acquired taste. The process of making it is quite simple, as the leaves just need to be left to dry in the shade (not under the sun like the others!). As a result, white tea leaves will often look much chunkier and lighter in color, and the taste is quite bitter.