Fo Shou, or Buddha Hand, is a traditionally made Oolong Tea with deep roots — literally. This name refers to a large-leaf strain of tea, putting in the same category as Wild Tea, Assam, and Red Jade #18. Large-leaf strains are a category that is distinctly separate from the majority of small-leaf tea strains cultivated for Chinese Oolong, Green and Black Tea production.
While GABA tea was invented in Japan, it wasn't until Taiwanese tea makers applied their expertise in Oolong Tea processing methods that it became known for its unique qualities of flavor along with its heath benefits. Japanese production of GABA tea is focused on its value as a health food supplement, similar to green tea powder. The tea industry in Taiwan relies on its differentiating value of quality produce to compensate for its relatively low volume, compared to other tea producing countries. So when the demand for GABA tea increased, Taiwanese tea makers used their skillful resources and developed a specialty tea with specific healthy attributes.
The truth is, our favorite batches of traditionally made Taiwanese Oolongs have come from this community of family owned farms in the foothills of Phoenix Mountain in Lugu Township. We've been told it's the soil, and the mid-elevation climate that is most conducive to making a traditionally made Oolong Tea. But in our own perception, it's the expertise that comes from generations of tea making that results in the character of tea that we love the most.
We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.
Our friend who is an organic tea farmer kept this batch separate from his normal practice of combining winter and spring harvests for his high grade produce for retail sale. We discovered that he still had a small amount of this harvest left when we visited his farmhouse a few months ago and inquired if he had any unique batches of tea to share. In classic local manner, he modestly replied that he had a batch of Dong Pian Tsui Yu that was harvested last January. Dong Pian in Chinese basically means late winter harvest, and Tsui Yu is a hybrid strain that is translated as Jade Oolong. We tasted it and were captivated by its character, and were delighted to be told that there was enough tea be shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club!
Shown above is the more recently planted section of a plot of Tsui Yu, aka Tai Cha #13, aka Jade Oolong. The crop that we are sharing with the Eco-Cha Tea Club this month was harvested in January, which makes it a relatively rare batch of tea in that it was harvested well after the winter harvest. In Taiwan, harvests that occur after December 21st are referred to as "Dong Pian", which is a name that connotes a new leaf growth that is stunted by the winter season. This late winter crop offers a distinctive character based on the slow growth of the new leaves on the tea trees.
These leaves were harvested from young tea trees that were ready for their very first trimming, prompting them to sprout more branches before growing taller. This premier harvest of organically cultivated Jin Xuan Tea plants is what we have chosen to share on the occasion of Chinese New Year with the Eco-Cha Tea Club. The character of this tea conveys the vibrant, nutrient-rich, new growth of young tea trees growing on an organic farm.
Our monthly missions to find exceptional singular batches of tea to share with the Eco-Cha Tea Club have led us full circle back to where we were exactly 2 years ago — in the workshop of our favorite elder artisan Mr. Su. On the day we stopped by and snapped the photo above, we found him tasting his batches of tea one last time before entering them into the world's largest Oolong Tea competition, where he has won Champion Prize. But we were visiting him with another type of tea in mind — the tea we sourced from him and shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club in January 2016, which we named Dong Ding Tie Guan Yin Oolong.
The image above portrays the visual character of the tea being shared in this month's Eco-Cha Tea Club. It's a rich, hearty brew that is both smooth and complex with a heady finish that is specific to an aged Oolong. The bubbles created in the tea pitcher when pouring off the brewed tea indicate that the essential aromatic oils and other key constituents have been preserved and concentrated in the aging process. We are excited to share this rare batch of Wuyi Oolong that was cultivated, cured, and aged at the southern tip of Taiwan in the tiny village of Gangkou, Pingtung County.