The processing of Tieguanyin tea is complex and requires expertise. Even if the tea leaf is of high raw quality and is plucked at the ideal time, if it is not processed correctly, its true character will not be shown. This is why the method of processing Tieguanyin tea was kept a secret.
1. plucking tea leaves (Chinese: pinyin: cǎi qīng)
2. sun withering (Chinese: pinyin: shài qīng)
3. cooling (Chinese: pinyin: liàng qīng)
4. tossing (Chinese: pinyin: yáo qīng)
5. withering, this includes some oxidation. (Chinese: pinyin: wĕi diào)
6. fixation (Chinese: pinyin: shā qīng)
7. rolling (Chinese: pinyin: róu niǎn)
8. drying (Chinese: pinyin: hóng gān)
After drying some teas go through the added processes of roasting and scenting.
By roasting level:
• Jade Tieguanyin (lightly baked Tieguanyin) is a newer type of Tieguanyin developed in the 1990s and has a light green jade color. It produces a very flowery aroma and taste. It is more similar to green tea than Oolong.
• Thoroughly baked Tieguanyin is the original style. It has a more complex taste profile and warm aroma, but the traditional baking technique has not been passed on well, so quality ones of this style are less seen in the market than “moderately baked” and “lightly baked” versions.
• Moderately baked Tieguanyin is a new breed that some argue has a good balance of floral aroma and complex taste, but it stores poorly.
By harvest time:
• Spring Tieguanyin is harvested around Li Xia (Start of Summer) and has the best overall quality.
• Autumn Tieguanyin is harvested in the autumn and has strong aroma but less complex taste.
• Summer Tieguanyin is harvested in summer and is considered lower-quality. Summer Tieguanyin can be further divided into two types: one harvested in June to July, one harvested in August.
• Winter Tieguanyin is harvested in winter. Production of Winter Tieguanyin is very low.