Anxi county recently had its harvest season for Tieguanyin autumn tea, a type of oolong tea. Wei Yuede, an inheritor of tea-making technology, was born into a family that has been growing and making Tieguanyin tea for generations, and started to plant tea trees when he was only 14 years old.
Wei has more than 3,000 students, but only a dozen of them have mastered the techniques. According to Wei, both diligence and talent are required for one to become a master of tea-making.
The tea-making technology involves a long and strict process, which starts from picking tea leaves, then involves drying, airing, shaking, frying, twisting and grinding, rubbing and baking tea leaves. The shaking and airing of tea leaves form the core part of the whole process, while the shaking of tea leaves is a crucial step in guaranteeing the quality of the tea.
According to Wei, the airing and shaking of tea leaves are carried outdoor over 10 hours, and the two steps are always carried out repeatedly during the process. In the end, the green tea leaves will have red edges, which is a typical characteristic of Tieguanyin tea.
After dedicating 40 years of his life to tea-making, Wei is still actively exploring ways to give Tieguanyin tea a better appearance and flavor. “We’ve entered a new era of the protection, inheritance and development of Tieguanyin tea. This means we must adapt to the changing circumstances by bringing out the best traditional knowledge of tea-making through the application of modern technologies,” said Wei. In 2008, the tea-making technology for oolong tea in Anxi was listed as China’s national intangible cultural heritage.
By taking advantage of the tea industry, Anxi has turned itself from a poverty-stricken county to one of the top 100 counties in China in terms of economic strength.