Upon arrival, we were immediately led to the tasting table where there were two bowls of brewed tea leaves on the tea tray with less than 30mL of cold tea in each. We were ordered to taste them without any introduction to what they were. We immediately recognized them as freshly produced Baozhong Tea of high quality, but there was only enough left for two small sips. After first sip, we were told that one of them was much more expensive than the other, and then asked which one we liked. We took the second sip and picked one, saying that it was a bit more fragrant, and were met with a scowl and a sigh. It was the most honest facial expression we've seen in ages. The expression above was probably 10 minutes after that moment, but still holds some of the humor and angst!
This batch of award-winning Dong Ding Cui Yu is made from well cultivated and skillfully processed tea leaves from the hybrid cultivar Tai Cha #13, or Tsui Yu (Cui Yu). Our friends then sorted the leaves to use only the best quality portion of this harvest to roast to perfection. The brewed tea offers a complex balance of fresh vibrant tea leaf character and toasted grains and nuts flavor notes, with a fruity/smoky finish. If you like a tea with a hearty character, this one's for you!
Batch 57 of the Eco Cha Tea Club is a Top Award winning tea that was entered into the spring 2020 Nantou County Tea Trade Association's Dong Ding (Ton Tin) Cui Yu Oolong Tea competition. This association focuses on promoting tea production in lower elevation regions, namely Zhushan and Mingjian Townships in southern Nantou County. These towns are at the foot of the mountain below Lugu Township and the Shan Lin Xi high mountain tea growing region. Zhushan and Mingjian, along with Lugu are home to the densest population of tea makers in Taiwan.
Batch #56 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Black Tea made from the Qing Xin cultivar, grown in the Pinglin tea growing region in northern Taiwan. This Black Tea is made by the same artisan tea maker who made the top 5% award-winning Baozhong Tea we offered as Batch #55 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club. His spring and winter crops are made into Wenshan Baozhong tea, for which his family has a legacy, and his summer crops are made into high-grade Black Tea.
This is what an award winning Wenshan Baozhong Tea looks like, in its dry leaf state, of course. Notice the uniformity in the size and coloration of the leaves. The yellow hues are only in the spine of the leaves, which would naturally protrude into a stem, but the stems have been removed, along with the larger, lighter colored, over-matured leaf stock. This uniformity of leaf material offers a pure flavor profile. It allows for a complexity of aromatic and flavor notes, but it comes from a uniform stock which is essential in producing a purity of character. This is a fundamental aspect of competition grade tea. It's not muddled. It's refined.
Batch #55 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an award-winning Wenshan Baozhong Tea that was entered in the recent spring tea competition of the local Farmers' Association. Preparation for competition involves removing the bulkier stems from the leaves, and also sorting the leaves by coloration to achieve the most uniform stock of leaf material possible.
This month's edition of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is from the same day's harvest of spring tea that our source received the Top 2% Award out of 750 odd participants in the spring 2019 competition. This month's batch of tea was prepared the same way as the award winning tea — removing the stems by hand and undergoing repeated roastings to meet the standard of quality set by this local competition. Only residents of this small community of traditional tea makers are eligible to enter this competition. But this is the heart of Dong Ding Oolong Country, and this community boasts the densest population of traditional Oolong Tea artisans in Taiwan, and probably in the world!
The hybrid strain of Cui Yu (翠玉), a.k.a. Tsui Yu, or Jade Oolong, can withstand traditional processing methods of heavier oxidation and roasting with good results. This hybrid strain that became popular in the late 1980's and 1990's along with Jin Xuan, is now becoming relatively rare.
This month's batch of tea being shared with theEco-Cha Tea Club was entered into in the spring 2018 Nantou County Tea Trade Association's Dong Ding Tsui Yu (Cui Yu) Tea Competition, and received the Gold Medal Award. This award ranks within the top 5% of all entries.
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 batch of award winning tea is a cultural diplomat of central Taiwan's tea making tradition. It is a hearty, complex brew with a broad profile of flavor that is bound to satisfy both the sensitive palate as well as the demand for a robust, full-flavored brew. It is a middle ground in the spectrum of tea types, ranging from Green Tea to Black Tea, with a wide variety of Oolongs in-between. It has a definite "cured" character, while maintaining a substantial fruity, clean quality offering an interesting brew that remains interesting for, well — years-on-end! In a word, it's our favorite style of tea.
Songbolin is a historical tea producing region that is home to some of the most skilled Oolong Tea artisans in Taiwan. This batch of tea was procured by a top competition player, and cured with a precision that attained First Prize, Top Prize (top 2%), and Second Category Prize Awards in a local competition. Three entries from the same harvest, roasted in 3 separate batches, attained the top three prizes.