• Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestLooking due east into the rolling hills of Doi Mae Salong. Doi ("Mountain") Mae Salong is a pristine high mountain oolong tea growing region in the far northern borderland in Chiang Rai province.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestMany tea farmers in Doi Mae Salong also grow exotic culinary herbs and botanicals such as osthmanthus flowers seen here. These farmers blend fragrant, freshly picked osthmanthus flowers into their own handmade tea, for gifts and their own enjoyment.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestMany tea farmers in Doi Mae Salong also grow exotic culinary herbs and botanicals such as osthmanthus flowers seen here. These farmers blend fragrant, freshly picked osthmanthus flowers into their own handmade tea, for gifts and their own enjoyment.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTaking in the vista to the west from atop the hill on which the tea factory is located.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestLocal tea pickers are busy collecting the autumn harvest in the organic oolong tea garden. They are harvesting two-to-three leaves and a bud from Qingxin cultivar tea trees. Some farmers are ethnic Chinese, while others are Burmese or Thai people who have farmed in the upland hills region for generations.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestLocal tea pickers are busy collecting the autumn harvest in the organic oolong tea garden. They are harvesting two-to-three leaves and a bud from Qingxin cultivar tea trees. Some farmers are ethnic Chinese, while others are Burmese or Thai people who have farmed in the upland hills region for generations.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestExpert tea pickers use both hands with dexterity, tossing one handful after another gently into the lightweight, breathable collection baskets they carry. Tea must be handled with care until it arrives at the factory where it will be subjected to the gongfu of the tea masters.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestExpert tea pickers use both hands with dexterity, tossing one handful after another gently into the lightweight, breathable collection baskets they carry. Tea must be handled with care until it arrives at the factory where it will be subjected to the gongfu of the tea masters.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestExpert tea pickers use both hands with dexterity, tossing one handful after another gently into the lightweight, breathable collection baskets they carry. Tea must be handled with care until it arrives at the factory where it will be subjected to the gongfu of the tea masters.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestRich, loamy soil is mostly dirt with some mineral content of potassium and manganese. The soil is fed continuously with fresh high mountain water but also drains easily, providing the perfect growing material for tea trees.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestRich, loamy soil is mostly dirt with some mineral content of potassium and manganese. The soil is fed continuously with fresh high mountain water but also drains easily, providing the perfect growing material for tea trees.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThese truly organic tea gardens provide a haven for biodiversity.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestExotic forms of wildlife make their home in the organic high mountain tea garden.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestExotic forms of wildlife make their home in the organic high mountain tea garden.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestViewing the organic tea garden from the west.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestSpirit houses bless and protect the spirit of the artisan oolong tea factory where Ruby Oolong is crafted.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestJeeps collect baskets of fresh tea leaves from dozens of small farmers for transport to the factory. The baskets are shaded to protect the tea from the sun's rays.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestFresh tea is picked throughout the morning time and is brought to the factory where it wither in the natural high mountain environment for around six hours. Sometimes the tea is exposed to the sun, which helps to haste the evaporation of moisture from the leaf during this crucial stage in oolong tea manufacture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea farmers in Doi Mae Salong are expert at plucking for high quality. For Ruby Oolong, most is picked using the two leaves and a bud standard, seen here.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestWhen the sun's rays become too strong, the withering beds can be shaded with a mesh screen. It is up to the sense of the tea master and factory workers to find the right balance of sun and shade.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestBaskets of fresh tea leaf are massed and recorded to calculate the payment that is to be issued to the farmers who picked the tea. This is performed on a daily basis during the peak tea season, when fresh tea is received every day.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAs soon as the tea is received at the factory, it is spread out in an even, thin layer for the optimal withering conditions. The tea is handled delicately at this stage.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestSome tea is spread on woven rattan trays for an extended withering stage. It is held in a mildly warm room, with exposure to the sun, for over 18 hours. This long withering process is essential for developing the ripe, fruity aromas found in Ruby Oolong tea.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestSome tea is spread on woven rattan trays for an extended withering stage. It is held in a mildly warm room, with exposure to the sun, for over 18 hours. This long withering process is essential for developing the ripe, fruity aromas found in Ruby Oolong tea.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestSome tea is spread on woven rattan trays for an extended withering stage. It is held in a mildly warm room, with exposure to the sun, for over 18 hours. This long withering process is essential for developing the ripe, fruity aromas found in Ruby Oolong tea.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter spending the afternoon in a natural outdoor withering environment, the tea is carried indoors to an specialized climate-controlled withering room. The temperature and humidity levels are measured and can be adjusted with precision. This room also serves as a staging area for the next phase in the oolong tea process: yaoqing, "tumbling."
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestIt is now very late in the evening. Tea leaves that were freshly picked in the early morning are now undergoing the important process of tumbling called yaoqing. Each bed of tea that is staged in the storage room seen here on the right is brought forward and lowered. The tea leaves are gathered up and tossed into the rotating woven baskets. The tea leaves are spun in the yaoqing baskets for a specified period of time ranging between three and twenty minutes. When the tumbling is stopped, the tea leaves are spread out once again in a thin layer and set aside to rest for another hour or two. Each bed of tea is withdrawn, tumbled, and spread out again dozens of times during the course of the evening. The entire yaoqing process lasts almost six hours, from about 10 p.m until 3 or 4 a.m. each night.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTrays of tea that is destined to become Ruby Oolong are subjected to the yaoqing process to soften the cell walls of the tea leaves. This important process helps to develop nuanced flavors and reduce astringency. Tea Master Mr. Zhang checks the aroma of the tea often during this stage. It is by relying on the senses, rather than a prescribed formula, that the artisanship of oolong tea manufacture is revealed.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTrays of tea that is destined to become Ruby Oolong are subjected to the yaoqing process to soften the cell walls of the tea leaves. This important process helps to develop nuanced flavors and reduce astringency. Tea Master Mr. Zhang checks the aroma of the tea often during this stage. It is by relying on the senses, rather than a prescribed formula, that the artisanship of oolong tea manufacture is revealed.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestWhen the withering and yaoqing stages are complete, the tea leaves are gathered in large bundles. The large mass of tea leaves will benefit from the warmth generated by forming a bundle, becoming supple as it is made ready for the next stage in the oolong tea process: rolling.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestWhen the withering and yaoqing stages are complete, the tea leaves are gathered in large bundles. The large mass of tea leaves will benefit from the warmth generated by forming a bundle, becoming supple as it is made ready for the next stage in the oolong tea process: rolling.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter withering, the tea leaves are staged one tray at a time to be placed onto the mechanical rolling tables.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea leaves have a fresh, sweet flowery aroma at the end of the withering stage, as they are prepared for rolling.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestJust moments after the rolling stage is complete, the aroma changes to become exotic and fruity. The aroma of tea continues to evolve and develop as it is advanced along each phase in the oolong tea process.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter rolling, the bruised and damp tea leaves are packed tightly to provide a dense layer that creates the ideal environment for the polyphenolic oxidation to occur. Another basket of rolled tea will be combined with this one and packed into the empty space in the center of the ring.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter rolling, the rather heavy trays of damp tea leaves are staged on a rack trolley where oxidation will occur. The trolley can be wheeled into the climate-controlled room so that the ambient temperature and humidity can be adjusted.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter rolling, the rather heavy trays of damp tea leaves are staged on a rack trolley where oxidation will occur. The trolley can be wheeled into the climate-controlled room so that the ambient temperature and humidity can be adjusted.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTea leaves that have finished withering, seen on the left, are rolled on mechanical rolling tables for about 12 minutes. After rolling the tea leaves become darker in color and become damp and sticky as the cell walls in the leaves are broken, allowing the juices inside to mix with enzymes in an oxygen-rich environment. Over the course three to four hours, polyphenolic oxidation will occur and lead to the development of complex, fruity flavors.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTea leaves are left to rest for about three to four hours during the phase in which polyphenolic oxidation occurs. The bruised tea leaves turn a deep jade color with hints of purple and red developing.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTea leaves are left to rest for about three to four hours during the phase in which polyphenolic oxidation occurs. The bruised tea leaves turn a deep jade color with hints of purple and red developing.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestNear the end of the oxidation phase, the tea leaves have become and even darker color, taking on a reddish color.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestNear the end of the oxidation phase, the tea leaves have become and even darker color, taking on a reddish color.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestNear the end of the oxidation phase, the tea leaves have become and even darker color, taking on a reddish color.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestNear the end of the oxidation phase, the tea leaves have become and even darker color, taking on a reddish color.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestNear the end of the oxidation phase, the tea leaves have become and even darker color, taking on a reddish color.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAt about 4 a.m., the early shift arrives to begin the process of drying and shaping the tea leaves. The tea leaves are spread out in a thin, even layer. Each batch takes about 15 minutes to pass through the conveyor drying oven, which is set to about 100-110°C.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAt about 4 a.m., the early shift arrives to begin the process of drying and shaping the tea leaves. The tea leaves are spread out in a thin, even layer. Each batch takes about 15 minutes to pass through the conveyor drying oven, which is set to about 100-110°C.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea leaves were packed tightly during the oxidation stage. Now the sticky clumps of tea must be separated for the drying and shaping process.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea leaves were packed tightly during the oxidation stage. Now the sticky clumps of tea must be separated for the drying and shaping process.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea leaves were packed tightly during the oxidation stage. Now the sticky clumps of tea must be separated for the drying and shaping process.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestThe tea leaves are spread out in a thin layer during the drying process.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestA rattan screen is used to sift out and catch the broken pieces tea leaf that come out of the oven first.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestA rattan screen is used to sift out and catch the broken pieces tea leaf that come out of the oven first.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestA rattan screen is used to sift out and catch the broken pieces tea leaf that come out of the oven first.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestOperating the drying oven requires constant attention and focus.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the tea leaves make their first pass through the drying oven, they are not yet completely dry. About 18kg of tea leaves are packed into each basket. They are still slightly damp, but now are warm and pliable. Each bundle is gathered up tightly and set aside so the tea leaves will retain moisture and heat. Polyphenolic oxidation continues to occur during this time. This slow process encourages the development of the elegant, ripe fruity and chocolate flavors so treasured in Ruby Oolong.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the tea leaves make their first pass through the drying oven, they are not yet completely dry. About 18kg of tea leaves are packed into each basket. They are still slightly damp, but now are warm and pliable. Each bundle is gathered up tightly and set aside so the tea leaves will retain moisture and heat. Polyphenolic oxidation continues to occur during this time. This slow process encourages the development of the elegant, ripe fruity and chocolate flavors so treasured in Ruby Oolong.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestIt takes at least two skilled tea artisans to operate one drying oven.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTrays of sticky, fragrant tea continue to rest and oxidize as they are staged for their first pass into the conveyor drying oven.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestTrays of sticky, fragrant tea continue to rest and oxidize as they are staged for their first pass into the conveyor drying oven.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAs the tea emerges from the oven, it is packed tightly into baskets lined with a muslin cloth that will be twisted and tied tightly into 18kg balls to retain temperature and moisture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAs the tea emerges from the oven, it is packed tightly into baskets lined with a muslin cloth that will be twisted and tied tightly into 18kg balls to retain temperature and moisture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestEach 18kg bag of tea is gathered up and set into this machine that twists the bag into a very tight, compressed ball shape. A very tight knot forms to hold the ball together. Each compressed ball is very heavy, like a 40 lb kettle bell. It takes about one minute of vigorous effort to form each 18kg ball using the machine. The effect of compressing the tea leaves is to bring the tea leaf juices and enzymes into contact, stimulating more controlled oxidation to occur.g.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the bags of tea leaves are compressed and tied together, the 18kg balls of tea are sandwiched between two rotating plates and are rolled this way for around 20 minutes. The pressure helps to compress the tea leaves even further and begins the process of shaping each plucking of two leaves and one bud into a round ball shape.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the bags of tea leaves are compressed and tied together, the 18kg balls of tea are sandwiched between two rotating plates and are rolled this way for around 20 minutes. The pressure helps to compress the tea leaves even further and begins the process of shaping each plucking of two leaves and one bud into a round ball shape.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter being rolled on this machine, the balls of tea are unwound and tossed into a tumbling machine that helps break apart the clumps. The tea will then be gathered up again, compressed and twisted into a ball, and positioned on the flat shaping machine for another round of rolling. This repetition of compression, shaping, and tumbling together forms the critical shaping process l for the "ball-rolled" oolong tea manufacture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter being rolled on this machine, the balls of tea are unwound and tossed into a tumbling machine that helps break apart the clumps. The tea will then be gathered up again, compressed and twisted into a ball, and positioned on the flat shaping machine for another round of rolling. This repetition of compression, shaping, and tumbling together forms the critical shaping process l for the "ball-rolled" oolong tea manufacture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter being rolled on this machine, the balls of tea are unwound and tossed into a tumbling machine that helps break apart the clumps. The tea will then be gathered up again, compressed and twisted into a ball, and positioned on the flat shaping machine for another round of rolling. This repetition of compression, shaping, and tumbling together forms the critical shaping process l for the "ball-rolled" oolong tea manufacture.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter about 20 to 25 cycles of compressing, rolling/shaping, and tumbling, the tea leaves have begun to twist together into ball shapes. The artisans gather to discuss the development of the tea and decide that the tea is ready to pass through the conveyor drying oven for a second time. The tea is still semi-damp during the shaping stage, and oxidation continues to occur as the tea juices are compressed in the twisting and flat rolling machines. Altogether each 18kg batch of tea will require 75-90 repetitions of compressing, rolling/shaping, and tumbling. After every 25 cycles, the tea will pass through the conveyor drying oven. This ensures the tea is dried and shaped in a very even, controlled manner. This approach requires ample patience and gongfu sense on behalf of the tea artisans who adapt their processing based on sensory understanding of the tea - its aroma and feeling.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter about 20 to 25 cycles of compressing, rolling/shaping, and tumbling, the tea leaves have begun to twist together into ball shapes. The artisans gather to discuss the development of the tea and decide that the tea is ready to pass through the conveyor drying oven for a second time. The tea is still semi-damp during the shaping stage, and oxidation continues to occur as the tea juices are compressed in the twisting and flat rolling machines. Altogether each 18kg batch of tea will require 75-90 repetitions of compressing, rolling/shaping, and tumbling. After every 25 cycles, the tea will pass through the conveyor drying oven. This ensures the tea is dried and shaped in a very even, controlled manner. This approach requires ample patience and gongfu sense on behalf of the tea artisans who adapt their processing based on sensory understanding of the tea - its aroma and feeling.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestA batch of tea is ready for its second pass through the conveyor drying oven.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the shaping and drying process is complete and the has been properly shaped into balls each containing just one or two budsets of two leaves and a bud, Ruby Oolong tea is baked for 18-36 hours at a low temperature. This process helps the tea develops sweet, caramelized notes of raisin sugar and chocolate. Baking also reduces the final moisture content of the tea so it is dry enough for packing and shipping.
  • Doi Mae Salong Autumn 2014 HarvestAfter the shaping and drying process is complete and the has been properly shaped into balls each containing just one or two budsets of two leaves and a bud, Ruby Oolong tea is baked for 18-36 hours at a low temperature. This process helps the tea develops sweet, caramelized notes of raisin sugar and chocolate. Baking also reduces the final moisture content of the tea so it is dry enough for packing and shipping.

Doi Mae Salong

October 2014
Autumn Oolong Crop


REGION: Doi Mae Salong, Thailand
ELEVATION: 1,600 meters
CLIMATE: Montane, subtropical, and monsoonal, with cool breezy evenings and warm sunny days
SOIL TYPE: Loamy, well-draining, high in manganese and potassium
CULTIVARS: Ruanzhi, Jinxuan, Qingxin


Doi Mae Salong (Autumn 2014 Harvest)

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