This month, we are celebrating the third anniversary of the Eco-Cha Tea Club by sharing a batch of Fo Shou Oolong Tea for the very first time. The Chinese Fo Shou (佛手) means Buddha Hand. The name refers to the tea plant, or cultivar, which classifies as a large leaf type. This puts it in the category of Assam, and wild strains of tea, along with the Taiwanese hybrid cultivar — Red Jade #18. Despite the fact that virtually all large leaf type strains of tea are cultivated for Black Tea production in Taiwan, Fo Shou has found its unique niche in the making of (partially oxidized) Oolong Tea. Similar to its predecessor in mainland China, this batch of Fo Shou was made in the fashion of traditionally made Tie Guan Yin from Mu Zha, Taiwan.
Mr. Zhang, at his tea table above, showed us his newly planted crop of Fo Shou a few years ago. Zhang employs natural farming methods on his own, very small plots of tea that include strains of Tie Guan Yin, Jin Xuan, and Fo Shou tea plants. He also outsources produce from tea farmers in the Pinglin tea growing region further north of Taipei, which is where this batch of Fo Shou Tea was grown. He processes these outsourced leaves in his own very small factory in Muzha, embodying his own local heritage as a traditional artisan of Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. The photo below shows the young Fo Shou plants on his own farm producing very large leaves that clearly distinguish this tea strain from the more commonly cultivated small leaf type strains that are used for Oolong production.
Mr. Zhang procured a small amount of leaves from last spring's harvest that made 20 + kg of finished product in total. Since this traditionally made tea is well-oxidized and roasted repeatedly, it's quality improves with several months of "rest". He wisely let it do so. We tasted it when it was freshly made, and it was "interestingly intense". Then, when we tasted it again in late September, it was an exemplary descendant of a traditionally made Oolong from mainland China. We feel it is a true rarity that represents Taiwanese tea making expertise as well as deep historical roots in the Oolong tradition from the mainland.
Just today, our web master and photographer Eric Mah took some friends visiting from abroad to visit Mr. Zhang in his home. And it just so happens that he was harvesting his winter crop of Tie Guan Yin Tea! Here he is busily working with the leaves while his spontaneous guests happily observe the process! But he still had time to brew tea for his guests.
But the timing of tending to the leaves in their crucial stage of withering and oxidation cannot be ignored! So it wasn't long before he was back to his bamboo trays of leaves and shuffling them about to keep process going steadily! So it is in the life of a traditional tea farmer — embodying true tea culture from the roots to the leaves to the teapot... and the stories that flow with the blessed blood of Buddha.
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