Batch 83 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Alishan Small Leaf Type Black Tea made from summer harvest of the Jin Xuan/ Tai Cha #12 hybrid strain. The new growth was plucked when it was still young and tender, providing premium leaf material for making Small Leaf Type Black Tea. We tried several summer batches of Small Leaf Type Black Tea in our search for a premium representative of this tea type, and this batch of Alishan Jin Xuan from our regular source was our pick of choice.
Batch 73 begins our seventh year of the Eco-Cha Tea Club, and we get to celebrate the occasion with a type of tea we've never sourced before. It's a soothing, delicate, yet full-bodied character of tea that combines a classic top quality Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong with fresh Osmanthus flowers. The intrinsically pronounced creamy character of the Alishan Jin Xuan infused with the essence of Osmanthus flowers offers an exceptionally soft and satisfying flavor profile.
We can see how naturally these tea trees are allowed to grow. It's a wholly different farming method than conventional farming, and the produce from a farm like this is also next level. In our perception, based on visiting tea farms in Taiwan for over 20 years, this source is a rare and precious find. The combination of a pristine geographic location with an ideal micro-climate for tea production, and the natural farming methods are just not to be found. In a word, we love this farms, as well as its caretakers!
The photo above is this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club undergoing solar withering on November 11, 2019. This was the final day of winter harvest for our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, and we were able to procure enough of this very minimal batch to share with our Tea Club. This date was 3 days after Li Dong (立冬) in the lunar calendar, and the winter harvest of High Mountain Tea had for the most part been completed in central Taiwan.
Eco-Cha Tea Club's batch #48 is Alishan High Mountain Black Tea. It has a very balanced, integrated flavor profile, and offers subtle notes of a Qing Xin Oolong. The brewed leaves still have a greenish hue, even though the stems are quite reddish, indicating nearly full oxidation. It is an interesting hybrid of tea types, but definitely acts more like a Black Tea made from the small leaf type Qing Xin strain.
The complex aroma of the brewed tea leaves has subtle hints of a bug bitten character, but not very obvious. The sufficient oxidation offers a fresh scone scent, with a touch of honey, making us think that there is some influence from the Green Leafhopper. It is very likely that this note is subtle due to the fact that it had rained very near harvest time, which is said to dilute or dissipate the chemical compounds that are responsible for this character of flavor. The texture is smooth and balanced, with delicate complexity.
We discovered this batch of tea through our mentor, Lisa Lin, who had already purchased a significant amount of this day's harvest. We introduced Lisa to Mr. Ye a few years ago, and she has been sourcing batches of bug bitten spring tea from him every year since. About a month ago, we were sitting at Lisa's tea table, and just happened to ask if she had bought any spring tea from Mr Ye. She said yes, and promptly brewed some for us to try. We were impressed, and called Mr. Ye the next day to see if any of this day's harvest was still available. He said yes.
Andy visited the farm a second time because the older brother had told him that he had transitioned his own plots of tea to completely natural farming, i.e. not using any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The image above clearly shows the contrast of a transitional plot of tea in the foreground, compared to the commercially farmed plots of tea on the neighboring farm below in the background.
This combination of oxidized leaves with slight roasting offers a balanced flavor profile that turns the fresh green quality into a sweeter, softer character that is complex and substantial. Instead of the herbal aroma of an unroasted High Mountain Oolong, there is a balanced, floral/vegetal quality with fresh pastry in the finish. Overall, it is soothing and satisfying in our experience.
Our friend, who is the most successful player we know in Taiwan's tea competitions, sourced 4 batches of tea from this village to be prepared for the winter 2016 competition in the Meishan Farmers' Association. He achieved awards in the Top Place ( top 2%), Gold Medal (top 10%), and Silver Medal (top 16%) categories. This month's Eco-Cha Tea Club batch is a combination of the remainder of tea leaves that achieved Gold and Silver Medal awards in a competition of more than 1000 entries.