Some of you have asked, and we would have loved to read this kind of article a year ago when we started with our first tea making tests in our home kitchen. So here it is- how to turn your tea bush, Camellia Sinensis, into a cup of delicious tea in your home kitchen.
Before we start, keep in mind, that these are very general guidelines and after you have made your first tests feel free to change temperatures and timings according to your own needs. All tea makers have their own tips and tricks, and testing is the only way towards success here :)
Plucking or harvesting tea is the first step when you have your tea bush. The usual standard for artisan teas here is two leaves and a bud. This comes from the fact that the first leaves and the bud of the tea branch are usually a lot softer than the leaves on the bottom, and thereby they are easier to handle and give out better tastes. It is quite easy to figure it out by just touching your tea leaves as well- all the soft leaves are good to go, all the stronger ones should stay on the bush. Keep in mind, that during processing tea loses a lot of its weight and volume, so to get 50 grams of tea (our usual package size), you should pluck about 200-300 grams of fresh leaves.
After plucking it’s time to decide what type of tea would you like to make?
Making WHITE TEA is fairly simple- you just have to put the leaves to rest for a few hours on a tray or a cloth in room temperature and then put your tea to dry in the oven. Tea should be dry in about an hour in an oven with 90°C (≈190°F). This type of preparing gets you the mildest tastes though and despite the easy procedure, it might not be the best choice for a new tea maker in my humble opinion.
Preparing a cup of GREEN TEA from your Camellia Sinensis plant requires a bit more work, but do not worry- everything is still very doable for a kitchen novice as well.
- First, leave your tea leaves to wither for about 2 hours. Just spread the tea leaves as a thin layer on a blank surface in a room with good ventilation, or outside but hidden from direct sunlight.
- Now on to fixing. Heat your oven to about 150°C (≈300°F) and put the leaves in for about 7 minutes. Leaves that come out should be smelling like freshly cut grass and still soft enough to roll. Another option is to do this step on a wok pan, to imitate the traditional Japanese kill-green process. Put your leaves on a pan, and keep moving them around, the best option is to do it with hands, but be careful with this one, not to burn your fingers! Whatever option you choose, know that less is more in this case- if you overheat the leaves, they become crunchy and can’t be rolled anymore…
- Rolling the tea is the time for you to reflect on your daily thoughts or invite a good friend to chat while rolling the leaves. Take a small handful of tea and roll it between your two hands. Do it for a few minutes and switch to the next small batch. Then do it again with all of the leaves, but this time push your hands together a bit more, to get those juices moving and your tea nice and curled up!
- Final drying - spread your rolled tea leaves on an oven pan, heat the oven up to 120°C (≈250°F) and keep the leaves in for 40 minutes. Leaves that come out should be nice and crunchy, kind of like tea chips :)
One of the first tests by Tomas, to manage the fixing of leaves on a pan. If you listen to the dialogue carefully, you will understand how little we actually knew about tea a year ago, haha...
Turning your leaves into BLACK TEA is the most time-consuming, but in return gives you the strongest tastes. Black tea is also the most traditional tea to make in Georgian villages.
- Similarly to the green tea, leaves need to wither after plucking, but in case of black tea, it should be at least overnight or even more. During this withering you can shake up your leaves a couple of times- just toss them up in the air for a few minutes. After a few rounds like that, tea should start smelling sweet like bananas :) You know when you are done when tea leaves have a sweet banana smell and the stems inside the leaves go reddish.
- After withering it is time for rolling. Again use this time to chat with a friend or meditate on your own- this is the time when you are most hands-on with your tea. Take a small handful of tea and roll it between your two hands just like with green tea.
- Oxidation is the step that gives black tea it’s a dark colour. Put your rolled tea leaves in a deeper oven pan or cooking form as a thicker layer. Cover it with a moist cloth and leave it in a warm place overnight or heat up your oven to about 40°C (≈100°F) and keep the leaves there for about an hour. You can add a bowl with water to the oven as well, to get the moisture level even higher. After oxidation, the leaves should be nice and dark in colour and ready for the last step! The longer you oxidate the tea, the stronger generally the taste.
- Finally, you guessed it- drying! Spread your rolled tea leaves on an oven pan, and heat the oven up to 120°C (≈250°F). Keep the leaves in for 40 minutes. Leaves that come out should be nice and crunchy.
One of the very first teas we made in 2018 in our home kitchen- glad to see that we have evolved quite a lot from that time!
And there you have it- your very own tea! As stated before- don’t be afraid to test what works out the best for you. Times and temperatures can vary quite a lot depending on your tea cultivar. While making your tea, try to focus on the needed result, rather than the numbers stated in this article- it might easily be, that your leaves wither faster or slower, then the tea leaves here in Georgia or they will need more time drying for example. Whatever you decide to do, let us know how it turned out, we’d be happy to hear!
And now that you know how to go through with every step of tea making in your home, you can replicate our teas at home, because all of our tea packages contain a step by step recipe on how this exact tea was made ;)