Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We're rolling, rolling, rolling: Tea Rolling

A while ago I pruned my tea tree (Camellia sinensis) down a bit as it was done flowering because that's when I heard it was best to do so.  Since then I've heard potentially other reports as to when to go about it and now I'm a little conflicted and worried, but if anyone has any advice, feel free to give it here.

Anyways, I pruned the darn thing as much as I hated to do so, because everything looks so sad when it's pruned and now I have to wait for new growth, which is the point of course, to create new and exciting branches that will increase my tea leaf load in the future.

I had read that I should prune it a few inches from the ground (pot in my case) but that just was so severe that I decided to demur on that advice and just did about half the plant.  Bah, I need to be more of a risk taker don't I?

The leftover prunings I saved to attempt to root up and thus be able to have more tree trees/shrubs/plants in the future for my use and as gifts for friends.  Cross fingers!

Many of the leaves I stripped, while older than for usual tea drinking use, I really did want to give it a go.  If I only did that one bud and 2 leaves thing that apparently all great tea is made from I'd have very little new growth and probably only a couple good cuppas a year, so I've been biding my time.

My methods were pretty crude and my steps not exact I know:  I rolled and pan fried the leaves, rather than roll them at the final step...but hey, still homemade green tea and hopefully things will be better the more I do it, right?!

My wonderful husband went through the effort of helping me figure out the rolling process, which was first awkward as I just literally rolled the leaf, then I made little balls that didn't hold their shape and finally we figured out a cool pretzel-ly thing:

It's  necessary to allow the leaves to wither first for a day or 2 so that they are not so turgid and brittle for rolling.  After that you want to pan fry or fire the leaves to stop oxidation (for green tea at least) and I'm sure to drive off water that might cause fungus or mold which is not only bad for flavor, but also potentially bad for one's health (funny, 'cuz this is the much touted health benefit drink).  Lastly you roll the leaves (the firing and rolling, I got inverted), probably more for a shape and storage aspect in green tea, because whole open leaves take up lots of room.  In other tea types, like oolong, the leaves are rolled prior to firing, to rupture leaf cell walls and give more flavor.

So what I made was like a weird white and oolong combination...?!

I pan fried my rolled leaves and they took on an interesting characteristic: the leaves got slightly shiny from oil I can only surmise that came from the leaves (unless the pan was not perfectly clean and there was residual oil in it) and they got obviously drier, but emitted a floral, nutty toasty smell that was quite delish to my nose.

I had saved some non-pan fried leaves and made myself a cuppa tea:

There was so little to no color and I was worried that there would be no flavor, but WHOA was there flavor!  Oddly seaweed-like and fresh,  grassy but slightly musky at the same time?! (Musky possibly not so good to some, but I don't mind it, or maybe I totally screwed something up here).

Either way, the unfired stuff was interesting, so I can't wait to see what the fired stuff will be like!

Interesting links: