Batch 65 of theEco-Cha Tea Clubwas initially sourced by our friend for entry into the largest Oolong Tea Competition in the world. The standard of this competition is a medium/heavy roast, so it requires a significant level of oxidation in processing the tea leaves for optimal results. This is where this batch of tea varies most significantly from the market standard of Taiwan's High Mountain Tea. High Mountain Tea is minimally oxidized and unroasted — offering a fresh green character with a floral bouquet. This batch was not only more oxidized, but also delicately roasted to offer a more balanced, sweeter character with fruity and pastry components to compliment the floral notes.
Batch 65 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club was procured by them with the intention of roasting it to the standard of the Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition. It won Second Place Category Award (top 8%) of over 6000 entries. Our batch has only been very delicately roasted — preserving its original fresh character, while balancing out the flavor profile and stabilizing its composition.
This crop of tea is the most recent growth picked from new branches on the trees that were allowed to grow for four months or so, similar to our recent batch of Traditional Hong Shui Oolong that we offered last month. As with last month's batch, this tea was also affected by the Green Leafhopper, and other pests. This is inevitable, given that this is an organic farm and the summer months are most susceptible to bugs!
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!
Batch #52 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club brings us back to our roots of local tea culture— since our introduction to Taiwanese tea began in Lugu, way back in 1993! Both the source of this tea and its flavor profile invoke those memories of our early days here in Taiwan.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, Mr. Zhang decided to embody his local tradition by clearing his uncle's yet-to-be farmed land to cultivate his own plot of tea higher up and deeper into the mountains.
The prominent features of this batch of tea are the growing region, the farming methods, weather conditions on the day of harvest, and the degree of oxidation in the leaves in their processing. These factors offer us a premium quality High Mountain Oolong Tea.
The brewed tea offers a creamy, soft pine aroma with a smooth, savory/vegetal character that is very satisfying. It has a lingering, thick yet mild floral aftertaste, with a touch of heady spice. It's this integrated composition that we have come to appreciate most about High Mountain Oolongs. When there is sufficient complexity, combined with a thick, smooth constitution that actually shines the most after it has cooled down, it rates high on our Oolong score chart!
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.
Tea grown at high altitude is known for its substantial composition and smooth texture, particularly when the leaves have been sufficiently oxidized. This batch of tea offers that creamy texture and subtle complexity of flavor as a base, with a pronounced charcoal roasted component at the forefront. The charcoal roast is prominent in the first few brews, and the underlying complexity of the tea flavor comes through more and more with each brew.
We feel that the constitution of these tea leaves that were grown at high altitude with optimal farming methods, and crafted by some of the top tea producers in the industry, is what makes this batch so special. We cherish both the knowledge and the quality tea that Mr. Zhuang generously shared with us. We will miss him dearly.
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.