Batch 98 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Qi Yun #23 Black Tea. It is a new strain of tea on the scene that was introduced by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) about five years ago. The cultivation of this new strain dates back to 1938, when a Japanese professor brought tea seeds from Qi Men in An Hui Province, China to cultivate in Taiwan. This research was continued by the TRES, which finally produced this new cultivar in the last decade. It has been determined to be ideal for Black Tea making, and has a strong immune system that can withstand hot and dry climate conditions.
The most distinctive quality of Qi Yun #23 is that it is a small leaf type that offers a character of Black Tea that is strikingly similar to large leaf type cultivars. Black Tea in general is made with large leaf type strains — primarily Assam. Small leaf type tea strains are used for Oolong and Green Tea production, and in the last decade have also been used to make Black Tea. While small leaf type Black Tea offers a complex aromatic profile with a sweet flavor profile, large leaf types offer a bold, substantial character with definitive dry finish. Qi Yun has both a complex aromatic profile and a classic (large leaf) Black Tea finish.
Black Tea production was developed in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945), emulating the British model in India. They established tea plantations in Taiwan's Sun Moon Lake area, using the large leaf Assam type. The Assam strain naturally cross-pollinated with pre-existing plots of Taiwan's indigenous tea tree strain — which became Red Jade #18 Black Tea. So the three main large leaf type strains cultivated in Taiwan for Black Tea production are Assam, Red Jade #18, and the indigenous strain that is called both Mountain Tea (Shan Cha) and Purple Bud (Zi Ya). Now, Taiwan has a new distinctive Black Tea in the mix that is made from a small type cultivar — Qi Yun #23.
OK, that's the geeky rundown on the background of this batch of tea, now let's make mention of what inspired us to share it with the tea club! We had tasted this tea type last year and found it to be a pleasant, refined cup of Black Tea with a pronounced citrus note. We were happy to learn about it, but it didn't rock our world. This year's produce from the same source impressed us far more — mainly for its orange/bergamot quality that was unlike anything we had tasted before. Was it the seasonal weather, or the skill and luck that went into the processing? Probably both. But this batch instantly impressed us, and we were once again elated by the opportunity to share it! Read more about how it brews in our tasting notes post.