Batch 88 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Dong Pian Oolong Tea from Lugu, Taiwan. Above is a photo of the elder artisan who made this tea, and his tea garden that produced it. It was an auspicious meeting we had with him last October while riding on a remote mountain road above our home in Bamboo Mountain. We stopped because we saw a farmer's truck on the side of the road, and an attractive tea garden behind it. The farmer walked up a few moments later, and we chatted briefly and exchanged phone numbers. It's this type of meeting that has inspired us to continue exploring Taiwan's tea country for decades!
Mr. Liu started developing his tea farm almost 40 years ago, and has maintained it himself since that time. He is a representative traditional Oolong tea artisan who was born and raised on Dong Ding Mountain, and moved across the valley to raise his own family and establish his own farm. His Oolong Tea making skills are among the best in the world, and have become a rare and precious resource in this generation. We are honored and grateful to have met him, and it has renewed our inspiration to share this culture with tea fans around the world.
Our curiosity was piqued on that day we met him roadside, because he told us he had just pruned his tea trees in preparation for the winter growing season — in the second week of October! This is an extraordinarily late start, and most farmers in the vicinity begin a month or so earlier. Mr. Liu had his own ideas in mind however. He wanted to produce a proper winter crop of tea — with a distinctive character and substance. His farming practice also involves administering pesticides ONLY after pruning the trees, to prevent disease caused by micro-organisms (mold) taking hold internally through the exposed branches and stems. This is in contrast to the conventional practice of administering two or three times throughout the growing season to maximize yield and uniformity in the new leaf growth.
As a result, this late winter crop was affected by the Green Leafhopper — a tiny aphid-like insect that loves to feed on the new leaf buds of tea plants. Tea leaves that have been bug-bitten in this way contain a chemical compound produced by the tea trees' immune system response. The presence of this specific chemical constitution in the bug-bitten leaves offers a unique honey-like flavor note in the brewed tea. This is the same condition of leaf material that have made Oriental Beauty and Concubine Oolong famous.
Dong Pian is the Chinese name given to crops of tea that are harvested at least two weeks after the start of winter (立冬) according the the calendar of 24 Solar Terms. This batch of tea was harvested a full month after this date. So it is a proper Late Winter (Dong Pian) harvest. The weather this late in the year, combined with this crop being bug bitten, and processed by a traditional Oolong Tea master have given us a singular batch of exemplary Oolong Tea in the Lugu tradition!
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