05 August 2011

A Cheap Spot Roasting Solution

A good, well-oxidized oolong can last for years.  Some teas are OK just being put into a jar and kept over time, but most will benefit from regular re-roasting.  I usually spot roast by putting tea in a sheet of paper that I circle over a flame.  A quick touch-up makes a stale tea more enjoyable, but doing more than 10 minutes of spot roasting by hand gets tedious.  There are specialized spot roasting sets, but they’re not cheap. 

Teaguyver (that’s me, at least for today) pieced together a suitable & cheap spot roaster.

spot roaster

I took the lid and base from a yixing gaiwan.  The base went on top of the heating stand for a chocolate fondue set that I had (>$10).  Light the candle, stir it around from time to time, and you’re good to go.

I spot roasted a 2009 Dong Ding that had gone stale in my jar.  20 minutes made a HUGE difference - 30+ would’ve been even better.  The stale flavor of a tea is very noticeable, but staleness doesn’t taste the same between different teas.  For this Dong Ding, it’s a raw, vegetal taste, like past-date celery. 

moisture(the moisture on the lid after just 2 minutes)

The point is to remove moisture and extraneous tastes.  There’s quite a bit of moisture that accumulates in the tea; I put a lid on top of the heating tea to show the escaping moisture.  It came out for a good 7 minutes. 

Some notes:

-I don’t think spot-roasting works as well with a lid.  It is important to trap some heat, but air circulation is important as well. Sticking some chopsticks/skewers between the lid and the base will help retain heat and provide better air circulation.

spot roaster refined

-An enclosed shape, like an old teapot, would be a good spot-roasting vessel.

-Spot roasting should be done shortly before drinking the tea.

-The process will not turn a “bad” tea into a “good” one.  It will help a good oolong that no longer tastes very good turn into something more pleasant. 

-Spot roasting will not return a tea to its original condition.  The taste will be improved, but different.

I love oolongs.


  1. Rtea,

    Your series on aged oolong, storage issues, and roasting deliver some great insights.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.


  2. Thanks Matt! Safe travels if you're still on the road.