The clip above is just a snippet of the roots, local scene in which we interacted on the day that the Tieguanyin Oolong Tea leaves of this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club were harvested. The son is weighing and recording each individual picker's harvest, basket by basket, and the father loads them onto the mini pickup truck to be carted to their home factory only 1km away.
You can see from the shadows cast on the road that it's still early morning, and the pickers are bringing in their first round of baskets full of new growth leaf. They'll then take a quick breakfast break before climbing the stone steps to reap another basket-full of leaf. It's a small plot of tea, and this harvest only produced about 50kg of tea. But this cultivar is very rare now, and almost non-existent in central Taiwan. That's what makes it an exciting batch to share!
The father, now in his mid-70's, planted a plot of "small leaf Tieguanyin" cultivar on his family land in Yonglong Village, Lugu over 30 years ago. A tea merchant promised to procure this tea on a seasonal basis. He was one of the first to plant this heirloom Tieguanyin strain in central Taiwan. It had previously only been cultivated in northern Taiwan, with deep roots in strains brought from China hundreds of years ago.
His son took clippings from this heirloom plot of tea, and brought them to a tea nursery to be propagated. He then planted the new saplings on small plots of family land. He first prepared these plots by having the soil dug at least 1.5m deep and overturned to provide more nutrient-rich soil for his new plantation. This is the kind of small scale, local farming — by definition sustainable in comparison with large scale modern tea production, that Eco-Cha strives to support. Oh, and it's also the epitome of local artisan tea culture!
At this small-scale, residential farming level — it's all about local culture. The Yonglong/Fenghuang community is literally the heart of traditional Oolong Tea culture in Taiwan. These rural farm communities, in conjunction with their predecessors in northern Taiwan, are where the world class tea culture has been propagated for generations. Eco-Cha has made these communities its playground for decades now. And this is how we get to share these single batch, local gems with our Tea Club members.
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