Blog 3: Women in Wu-Yi Rock Tea-making

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

During one of my tea events in D.C. a week ago, a young lady asked why there are fewer female tea masters in rock tea.

To answer this question, we have to understand why rock tea has tea masters in the first place. As you may know, different teas have different fermentation levels. For example, green tea is not fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. Both teas are less difficult to make than rock tea. Wu-Yi oolong rock tea is half-fermented. This makes rock tea more unique because it involves a higher level of human expertise and human control. This is why making rock tea requires a tea master.

Because it is more difficult to make, rock tea making involves more steps than others. There are a total of 17 steps in the making of Wu-Yi oolong rock tea. Among these 17 steps, there are at least 4 procedures are extremely physical demanding. For example, traditional handcrafted tea shaking, or handcrafted Yao-Qing, requires long hours of non-stop work of shaking more than tens of pounds of leaves at a time. This procedure became even more physical demanding after most tea makers adopted machine shaking. During machine shaking, a tea master is required to be able to delicately flip hundreds of pounds of leaves without any leaves getting in contact with machine’s heat ducts, otherwise the whole load of tea leaves would be wasted.

However, despite these difficult and demanding procedures making it harder for women to become tea masters, there are great female tea masters. For example, Ms. Yu-Qiong You is certified as one of the only twelve heirs to the non-material heritage in tea-making by China’s Ministry of Culture.(Did you our tea master Mr. Guo-Xing Wang is also one of the twelve?)

I hope this blog can answer you questions in this topic. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or tweet us @valleybrooktea.