I walked into an apartment in Taipei and the owner greeted my son, Jennifer (my friend) and I with a smile. He asked us what kind of tea we would like to drink. After some more chit chat, his wife pulled out a bag of tea and brew it for us.
As we were sipping on one of his oolongs, the owner asked us if we would like to see charcoal roasted tea. I have to admit I was surprised to hear that because we were in an apartment! He lead us through a room and opened a door. The air was hot and heavy, making me feel like I was in a sauna room with a charcoal smell! It was a surreal experience. There were two baskets of tea being roasted at that time. The room is so small that it can only hold two baskets. He lifted one of the baskets to let me see the charcoal. There were ashes on top and he used a hand tool to push some ashes aside so that I could see the actual burning charcoal.
We went back out to the living room and drank more tea. I asked him about the process of charcoal roasting tea. He said it took him one and a half days to build the charcoal fire the way he wanted. Each bamboo basket can only hold one and a half jin of tea (900 grams). Sometimes he would roast the tea for two hours and take it off the fire. When he has finished one roasting, he may let the tea rest for 6 months before roasting it again. He said that there isn't really a formula for roasting, it's all based on his experience and feeling.
I purchased some of his charcoal roasted Dong Ding to share with you. Also, all of the new Spring teas should be listed on my website soon. I should be receiving the rest of the Spring oolongs shortly and will schedule tastings for them. Please come by and see me soon!