Harvesting of the young tea leaves begins in July and continues until October. Every two weeks the tea gardens are inspected and the leaves picked. The leaves are picked by hand and placed in bamboo baskets that are carried on the back, supported by a strap over the forehead.
The fresh leaves, still brittle and leathery, are laid on grids to accelerate the withering process.
After around 24 hours the soft leaves are ‘rolled’. For this two to three handfuls of leaves are laid out in a flat basket and then slowly and carefully kneaded. At this point the first of the leaves that are too large, stalks and other impurities are also removed. As the leaves are rolled, their cell structures are broken and the leaves’ sap can escape, starting the process of oxidation. It takes around 20 minutes to roll the leaves, after which the kneaded leaves are left to oxidize for 4 to 5 hours before they are roasted over an open fire in large iron pans and thus the oxidization process is halted.
The Jiri tea is then ready!