What to do with bags of material unfit for puerh tea production? An experiment of course!
You can always make decent black tea with low quality material, it was time to sacrifice these bags for the sake of scientific progress.
We let the leaves wither for a night and half a day. At noontime, we rolled the tea in the neighbor's big rolling machine (I spent 30 minutes cleaning the broken bits of leaves in the machine after that, interns are very welcome to our factory).
Three hours of oxidation would be enough for this tea because the hot afternoon would make the enzymes work hard on the polyphenols. All the while, I pre-heated the wok and let a layer of embers accumulate in the fire pit.
The leaves would be dried in the wok, I needed to be careful, maillard reactions enhances the aromatic profile, but burning the leaves would give a nasty taste. The wok had to be maintained at a fairly low temperature. I only threw a handful of leaves in the wok to ensure a quick drying and no steaming effect. I expected the drying process to take about an hour, it took me four.
We laid the leaves in our greenhouse to complete the drying process overnight, by the next day the leaves were in good shape and the experiment was successful.
This video shows the whole process:
The tea features a unique fragrance, which reminded of thyme and lemongrass at the starts, and has been evolving as the tea ages. You will enjoy the thick mouthfeel and warming effect the tea provides. I will surely make more of this in the future.