The dried leaves above exhibit the premium batch of Red Jade #18 Black Tea being offered as batch 84 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club. This crop was picked in early July, while it was still immature and tender. Summer crops are the best leaf material for optimal results in a full flavored composition for Black Tea specifically. Stronger sunlight and hotter weather produce higher concentrations of catechins in the leaves, resulting in a fuller aromatic and flavor profile. Full oxidation of these compounds is necessary to achieve a balanced composition that is not overly astringent.
Batch 84 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Red Jade #18 Black Tea from the historical Sun Moon Lake tea growing region of Taiwan. This cultivar, given the name Red Jade (紅玉) is registered as hybrid #18 by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station. You can learn all about its background in our recentblogpost, but this Black Tea hybrid strain is unique to Taiwan, and was "born" in the 20th century. It has become quite popular over the last 20 years since it was first commercially introduced in the early 2000's.
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 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.
We can see from the brewed leaves above that they resemble an Oolong Tea much more than a Black Tea. The bulk of the leaves still maintain their structural integrity, indicating that they have not been rigorously rolled, like a Black Tea would be. Only a portion of the leaf material was torn and squeezed to expose the sap, resulting in a more thorough oxidation. Most of the leaf material was treated with the skill and tact that an artisan Oolong Tea is made from. We feel that this is a more specialized batch of Hong Oolong in this respect.
Eco-Cha first met Mr. Zhan in 2016, when we smelled tea being roasted beside the historical train station in Shuili — one of our favorite mountain towns in central Taiwan. We learned that he had been transitioning his family tea farm to natural farming methods for several years already. We said that we looked forward to learning more about his work, and hoped to have the chance to procure some tea! Well, some things take time... and 5 years later, here we are — finally able to share a batch of his tea with the Eco-Cha Tea Club!
Batch 60 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club brings us to a full five years of offering monthly editions of specialty Taiwanese teas! This month's edition was cultivated and crafted by one of our most respected sources of naturally farmed tea. He not only employs the most radical natural farming methods we know of, he also is continually refining processing methods to bring his produce to its fullest potential, based on the growing conditions of each season. Mr. Xie also produces our GABA Oolong Tea, which, like this month's batch, is one of his signature products.
Batch #56 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Pinglin Qing Xin Black Tea — summer 2019 harvest, from the same source as last month's edition of award winning Wenshan Baozhong Tea. This is the first batch of Black Tea we have sourced from the Pinglin region in northern Taiwan, and it is further supporting evidence of the fact that high quality tea can be made from low to mid-elevation farms. We were lucky to have sourced the remainder of two consecutive days of last summer's harvest that were combined to provide just enough to be shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club! Black Tea reaches it peak of quality after at least one year of aging.
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.
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.
Mr. Xie has been producing significant quantities of GABA Oolong Tea for several years, but this is the first batch of GABA tea that he processed as a Black Tea. After sharing his hand-picked, naturally farmed GABA Oolong that had been aged for a full year last July, we are excited to share this batch that was harvested last June, and aged 9 months. While these time periods do not qualify as "aging" tea, they do allow the composition of the leaves to mellow and offer a richer, more full-bodied character.