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proCESSES OF FIRING AND CURING TEA. 131
other with their round sides up. The workmen take a handful of the hot leaves in their hands, and roll and knead them upon the table, in order to drive out the oily green juice, which runs through upon the floor.
After the leaves are thus rolled, they are shaken out loosely upon basket trays, and exposed to the air to complete the drying, the object being to dry them in the gentlest manner that they may not lose their brittleness, nor become crisp in the sun. When dried, the leaves are again thrown in larger quantities into the pans, now heated to a less degree than before, and there stirred and thrown about and upon the masonry behind, in order that all may be equably dried and none be scorched. If they were previously well rolled, this operation causes them to shrivel and twist more closely, and as they grow hotter they are stirred by a brush, and thrown up until they are completely dried, which usually requires an hour. Sometimes the leaves are placed in trays over a charcoal fire covered with ashes, after exposure to the air, and there dried for two or three hours, which renders them of a darker color than when rapidly fired in the pans.
The process here described is occasionally varied. After the leaves have been put into the firing pan to be subjected to the heat, rolled upon the table or tray, and exposed to the sun, instead of being returned to the pans, they are scattered upon a fine sieve placed over the same fire, the iron pan having been taken out. This fire is of charcoal and covered with ashes to prevent smoking the leaves, and while over it they are slowly turned over until thoroughly dried. They are then removed to a coarser sieve, and the fine and coarse leaves in this way partially separated before packing. This mode of drying gives the leaves a greenish hue, varying in degree according to the length of time they are exposed to the sun and fire. The common sorts of black tea are left in the sun and air after the first process of firing and rolling a much longer time, even for two days, until a partial decomposition of the leaves has begun from the effects of the heating and squeezing they have undergone; they are, moreover, again thrown into the pans, and rolled and stirred about for a longer time when intended for exportation than when put up for domestic use, almost a partial charring being requisite in the former case to prevent them turning mouldy during their long voyage.
In curing the finest kinds, not more than a handful of leaves is sprinkled on the pans, and only a pound or so dried in the baskets at once. The firing of the common sorts is done in a more expeditious way, and the leaves much more broken by the operation. During the first firing, an acrid, greenish juice exudes, and is partially evaporated, but as it is pressed out upon the table affects and irritates the hands of the workmen; and when they are again put over the fire, the hot dust rising in a cloud from the boilers or baskets fills the air; to avoid this the workmen sometimes cover their mouths.
Mode of firing tea.
Dl FFERENCE BETWEEN BLACK AND GREEN TEA. 133
with lead, but the common kinds are merely packed in tubs and boxes and marked for shipment. There are, however, particular operations performed on different sorts of tea, though these are the usual modes of curing black tea; the leaves of Hungmuey are placed under cover till they almost begin to ferment, and then are exposed to the sun before the first roasting. The delicate flavor of Pecco and other fine kinds made from the unexpanded leaves, would be spoiled on the hot pans where Souchong and Congo are cured ; they are dried in baskets after a careful rolling. The round pellets of gunpowder tea are rolled singly, when damp, into a compact ball. When over the fire for the ultimate drying, fresh flowers of the Chloranthus, Olea, Aglaia, and other plants, are placed between the heated tea leaves, by putting one basket of tea over the flowers as they lie on the top of an under basket, and then stirring them a little, without mixing the two. It is not unlikely, however, that the flowers are occasionally mixed with the tea to increase its weight, but such is not the intention in scenting it ; the scented tea must be immediately packed to preserve the flavor thus given it. Only the finer kinds of green and black tea are thus treated, but Chinese amateurs are somewhat fastidious as to the kind of flowers used, and the degree of scent imparted to their favorite beverage. The questions have been often discussed whether black or green teas are made from the same plant, and whether they can be made from each other. Mr. Fortune found that the Thea viridis or green tea was cultivated in Fuhkien and Kiangsu, and Thea bohea at Canton, and that green and black teas were made indiscriminately from either. The Chinese account referred to on a previous page, ascribes the difference in the color of black and green tea wholly to the mode of preparation; green tea is cured more rapidly over the fire than the black, and not dried in baskets afterwards; but throwing the leaf into red hot pans, and subsequently exposing it to the sun and drying it over a covered fire makes it black. Green tea can therefore be changed into black, but the contrary cannot be done, because the leaf is already black. Green tea is made by simply drying the leaves, “young ones over a gentle beat and old ones over a hot fire, for about half an hour, or while two incense-sticks can burn out.” By this mode more of the essential oil remains in the leaf, and is one reason, perhaps, why a greater proportion of green tea spoils or
becomes musty during the long land journey to Canton. It is not surprising, indeed, that the manipulations in curing a leaf raised over so large an extent of country, and to such an enormous amount, should slightly differ, but there is no mystery about the processes. The tea cured for home consumption is not as carefully or thoroughly fired as that intended for exportation, and consequently probably retains more of its peculiar properties. Both kinds are repeatedly tested during the various stages of manufacture by pouring boiling water on a few leaves, to observe the color, aroma, taste, strength, and other properties of the infusion. As many as fifteen drawings can be made from the best leaves before the infusion runs off limpid. In the usual manner of Chinese writings, ten things are specifically mentioned by the native author to be observed in selecting green tea; such as, that the leaf must be green, firmly rolled, and fleshy; there must be no petioles adhering, no dirty or broken leaves or twigs; and the infusion should be greenish, aromatous, and oily. In selecting all kinds of tea, the color, clearness, taste, and strength of the infusion are the principal criteria; the weight of the parcels, taste and color of the dry leaf, and its smell when strongly breathed upon, are also noticed. Some Ankoi teas are tried by a lodestone to detect the presence of minute particles of iron. It has been the prevailing opinion that the effects usually experienced upon the nerves after drinking green tea, and its peculiar taste, are owing to its being cured upon copper. A moment's thought would show the impossibility of copper contracting any verdigris when constantly heated over the fire, even if it were employed, which is never done. The difference in taste is perhaps partly owing to the greater proportion of oil remaining in the green tea, but far more to an artificial coloring given to it in order to make the lots present a uniform and merchantable color; for the operations of firing and rolling just described give a different shade to the leaves as they come more or less in contact with the iron, or are exposed to the sun, and the manufacturer wishes to render these tints uniform before selling his goods. The finest kinds of green tea do not probably undergo this operation, nor that used by the people themselves in those districts, but the color of the cheaper sorts is artificial. The leaves when in the pans the second time, are sprinkled with turmeric powder to give them a yellow tint, and then with a mix
TESTS AND NAMES OF Tea. 135
ture of gypsum and prussian blue, or gypsum and indigo finely combined, which imparts the desired bloom to the yellowish leaves as they are rolled over in the heated pans. If our taste inclined us to prefer a yellow or blue tea instead of a light green, it could therefore be easily gratified. It is likely that most of the green tea exported undergoes some process of this sort to color it uniformly, but the principal safeguard, as Davis remarks, against injury from the coloring matter, is in the minute proportion in which the deleterious substances are combined. At Canton, on occasion of an unexpected demand some years since for some particular descriptions of green tea, it was ascertained that even black tea was thus colored to simulate the required article, but such stuff forms a very small part of the exportation. During the transportation to Canton, the tea sometimes gathers dampness, or meets with accidents which require it to be refired before shipping; in such cases it is unpacked, and subjected to a second drying in the pans. It is also repacked into chests of such sizes and descriptions as the foreign customer wishes; but much of the tea is sent abroad in the original cases, and its quality examined for the first time since it left the interior of China perhaps in Ohio or New South Wales. The manufacture of the chests, lining them with lead, and transporting them to the ship, gives occupation at Canton alone to many thousands of carpenters, painters, plumbers, printers, boatmen, and porters, besides the countless numbers of men, women, and children, who elsewhere find employment in picking, rolling, sorting, and curing the leaves. The native names given to the various sorts of tea are derived for the most part from their appearance or place of growth; the names of many of the best kinds are not commonly known abroad. Bohea is the name of the Wu-i hills (or Bu-1 as the people on the spot call them), where the tea is grown, and not a term for a particular sort among the Chinese, though it is applied to a very poor kind of black tea at Canton; Sunglo is likewise a general term for the green teas produced on the hills in Kiangsu. The names of the principal varieties of black tea are as follows: Pecco, “white hairs,” so called from the whitish down on the young leaves, is one of the choicest kinds and has a peculiar taste; Orange Pecco, called shang hiang or “most fragrant,” differs from it slightly; Hungmuey, “red plum blossoms,” has a