Batch 83 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Alishan Small Leaf Type Black Tea made by our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong and Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong. They picked some of their Jin Xuan summer crop when it was still immature. These young tender leaves from the second flush (summer crop) are ideal for making Black Tea. Jin Xuan is the name of Taiwan's most popular hybrid small leaf type tea.
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.
Our friend's mom and aunties picked thousands of Osmanthus blooms by hand last month in order to make special batches of flower blended tea. He related how decades ago, when Taiwan High Mountain Tea first became popular, it was often described as having an Osmanthus flower fragrance.
Batch #50 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club starts off 2020 with a freshly harvested Alishan High Mountain Oolong Winter Tea from our ongoing source in Meishan Township. This very small batch of tea was their final day of winter harvest. The leaves were not yet fully mature, and offer a fresh, distinctly aromatic and complex flavor profile.
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.
Batch #48 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Alishan High Mountain Black Tea. Our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong and Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong makes Black Tea from his summer crop of Qing Xin Oolong tea leaves. The summer crop is actually a bumper crop from their spring harvest. The new leaf growth that was too immature to pick at spring harvest is allowed to continue growing to at least half maturity before it is harvested and processed as Small Leaf Black Tea.
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.
The leaves were delicately roasted to meet the competition quality standard, offering a mild, smooth, well-balanced, buttery-sweet brew. The light roasting can be observed in the color of the brewed tea above, which is more golden than an unroasted High Mountain Tea. We have very much appreciated this standard set by the Meishan Farmers' Association Competitions, as it offers a flavor profile that is between a fresh, green, floral unroasted High Mountain Tea and a rich, bold, complex traditionally made tea, such as Dong Ding Oolong.
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.