Hand processing tea leaves at home

I’ve been seeing many people talk about hand processing tea. I recently shared my story of making tea on the Big Island of Hawaii at a research center at the University of Hawaii. You can see the full story at this link: http://tealettea.tumblr.com/post/30085675971/hand-processing-tea-all-tea-in-hawaii-is
Has anybody else hand rolled leaves before? What process did you use?

15 Replies
Max said

I’m also very interested in this. I’d love to see some more examples since I’m starting up my own company in the next couple months and I definitely don’t have the money for machines.

Which hand-rolling techniques did you find to work best? Very curious :)


Aloha MaxR, where is your tea farm? You can find a lot of information at this link: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/nph-9.pdf

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Javan said

I also appreciate the link. My two little tea plants are awaiting their permanent home in a new garden bed in my front yard. I will have to focus on the tea process more fully in the next year.

Good luck with your plants! Please share photos!

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How did I miss this topic????! I have about nine plants, not harvest ready yet, though.
Anyone have hand rolling techniques for japanese style greens? ( steamed green tea, not wok fried)

Wow, I wish you all the luck with your plants. Do you mind telling us where you got your plants and what climate you are growing them now? Also, what varieties do you have?

I live in Florida, where its really hot and humid. I already can tell that I will have to grow them in partial shade because the sun down here is too strong (Sun burned tea plants anyone?).
I think I have either Yabukita or the traditional Shizouka plants (called “Zairai” they are the original tea plants before Cultivars were made). So far I am just refering to them as being Zairai since I don’t know what they are.

Awesome, I’ve heard there are quite a few people growing tea in Florida. I may be visiting there in early November to see some places. Where did you get your tea plants from?

I got them from Camforest. http://www.camforest.com/
they dont have any seeds for sale at the moment. I think seeds are harvested in march/april. so they don’t have any available right now.

Btw- they must do a second harvest of seeds some time in fall… as they have more available and I purchased more :)
I bought more Japanese (technically… chinese ;) ) small leaf and a few assamica seeds. Just a heads up for anyone who is still interested in having your own seedlings.

I just went to Cam Forest in North Carolina. They are the only nursery making plant material available for the retail market. Look out for much more from them and other growers and the interest in US grown tea in increasing dramatically

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ZachMangan said

Really interesting that you are growing your own plants. I have some experience hand rolling tea in Japan, and I have to tell you its difficult! The guys that do it are crazy strong. This spring I was invited to participate in hand rolling gyokuro (Temomi cha). There were 6 distinct steps and the whole process took about 3.5 hours from fresh leaf to finished product (this did not include hand steaming the leaves). If you search around you can find more info on TEMOMI style tea, but it really is an art that takes a long time to master. But I am sure you could get something drinkable just by employing some of the techniques at home. I am really eager to hear how it turns out of you all.
You can see some photos of the rolling below:

Looking forward to chatting more!

:D Thank you for the link. I’m sure I can figure it out within the next few years as my plants grow up. I could also do white tea which doesn’t take rolling.
I’ve seen some videos on hand rolling, I think if i practice a bit I could make fukamushi. Steaming in the easy part, hand rolling will be tiring, and I think drying them will be the hardest.
Edit: I have plans to construct a mini table thingy. Hiro? I plan on setting a cast iron dutch oven outside with a few bits of charcoal (i’ll check the temp to make sure its not too hot), set a bamboo steamer on top, and line the steamer with butchers paper (depending on thickness of paper and temp I might add 1-3 layers). That should give me a miniaturized version of that table they use. I will probably need a small wooden board or something to set inside to rub the leaves against as well. But so long as I’m careful I shouldn’t burn myself or catch the bamboo on fire.

@SenchaMatcha, have you considered using a solar dryer for drying your leaves? A tea farmer in Nilgiri, India is constructing one now and will let me know how it works. It works great fruit and veggies: http://peacelyse.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/solar-dryer-manual-general.pdf

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alice said

I have a mature tea plant and was hoping to do a little harvest but it is only just starting to warm up heading into spring here now and I am moving house in the next few weeks. I am still hoping that it might get warm enough for new leaves to emerge before I leave but it is looking less likely.

The leaf buds on my plant right now are small and very tightly packed, more like you see in yabao than conventional buds and the leaves are a very dark green and quite thick, which I think might have to do with the shade and the fact they are older leaves on it right now?

If I do manage to get a harvest in and process some tea I am not expecting much but think it would be a fun experiment.

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