Batch 83 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Alishan Small Leaf Type Black Tea made by our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong and Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong. They picked some of their Jin Xuan summer crop when it was still immature. These young tender leaves from the second flush (summer crop) are ideal for making Black Tea. Jin Xuan is the name of Taiwan's most popular hybrid small leaf type tea. It's also known as Tai Cha #12, and Milk Oolong. When it is made into a lightly oxidized High Mountain Tea, it offers an especially buttery/creamy character — hence the name "Milk Oolong".
Small Leaf Type Black Tea is any Black Tea made from the most commonly cultivated strains of tea on Taiwan for making Oolong Tea. The most well known Small Leaf Type strains in Taiwan are Qing Xin, Jin Xuan, Four Seasons Spring, Tsui Yu, Wuyi, Tie Guan Yin, Ying Xiang, and Qing Xin Gan Zai,
This category is distinguished from Large Leaf Types, which are almost exclusively used for Black Tea production. So, in general, Black Tea is made from large leaf strains — the most common by far of which is the Assam strain from India, which has been propagated in many countries around the world.
Summer crops produce the best quality Black Tea. The strong sun and high temperatures cause the tea plants to produce a higher concentration of polyphenols, which results in a more substantial and aromatic flavor profile. Small Leaf Type Black Tea is known for its aromatic, complex profile that distinguishes it from Large Leaf Type Black Tea. It offers tangy, sweet and fruity notes over a lighter malty base.
Throughout the summer months, we searched for an exemplary batch of Small Leaf Type Black Tea to offer to the Eco-Cha Tea Club. After tasting a few batches made by our friends in Lugu, we got a sample of Shan Lin Xi Black Tea made from the Qing Xin strain, and brought it to our Alishan source to compare with the Black Tea they had made with some of their summer produce. We first tasted a batch of their Qing Xin Black Tea alongside the Shan Lin Xi batch. The Shan Lin Xi won. Then they brought out a second batch made from Jin Xuan. The Jin Xuan really stood apart from the other batches we tasted. It has more complexity and vibrancy in its flavor profile. We feel like we found what we were looking for in offering a batch of exemplary Small Leaf Black Tea!
Every time we visit our Alishan source, we're compelled to stop and appreciate this homestead — a remnant of the earliest settlement of this region. It's just down the road a ways from our friend's home... inspired to share a glimpse with you!
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