Qi Men’s history is short and sweet.
Created in the 1800’s, Qi Men is relatively new so all of its history has been fully recorded. A very unique tea, Qi Men is the only red tea on the list of China’s top ten most famous teas.
Chu Ye, the cultivar used for Qi Men, is an example of of a cultivar fit for one type of tea. Since The different categories of tea are based on making technique, there is no rule that dictates which cultivar must be made into which tea. You can take a Shui Xian leaf, which is usually used for oolong, and make white or green tea out of it. The problem is it does not always taste good. Chu Ye makes fantastic red tea, but as a green tea it taste weird.
Tea that is processed with the traditional methods always have the best taste. This is why Shunan always tries to make her tea traditional as possible. Making tea in the traditional way is a very delicate process. Shunan wanted to wither some Qi Men in the sun, as opposed to automated channels. When doing this you have to take into account not only the heat of the sun, but also the heat off the ground that will effect the withering process. A careful eye and a skillful hand must be kept on this tea to prevent them from being ruined
After the tea is withered, it is rolled. For the test batch Shunan used an old school rolling machine made completely out of wood. As the cell wall of the leaf breaks, Shunan begins to smell the wonderful aroma of the tea. The leaves are then placed into a temperature controlled room to ferment. This is what sets red teas apart from the rest. Unlike most teas which are fermented and then heated to stop the fermentation, red teas are allowed to ferment all the way. All the enzymes in the leaf are left to live out their life which, if done right, leaves you with a smooth sweet tea.