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.
The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
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, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.
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.
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.
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.
We chose the name "Qing Xin Oolong Black Tea" in accordance with the local terminology, which would be simply "Oolong Black Tea" (烏龍紅茶). But because in English, Oolong is the name given to partially oxidized teas, we added the Chinese pinyin of this traditional strain of tea plant that originated in mainland China. Qing Xin literally means "green heart" which describes the appearance of the stem of the leaf.
Batch #38 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is kicking off 2019 with a cutting edge rendition of Taiwanese High Mountain Oolong Tea. We're inspired to share this batch of tea because of its differentiating value from the conventional market grade High Mountain Tea that has become well known in Taiwan and beyond.
Appearance of the dried leaves is the first step in assessing any loose leaf tea. We can see by the coloration that these leaves are partially oxidized, with both green hues and darker tones. This is the first sign that it is a traditionally made Oolong tea. In recent trends, tea made in this fashion has been given the name "hong Oolong" or Red Oolong. It's actually just a new name for an old recipe.
This is what inspired us to share this batch of tea that was produced in Nantou County. We consider this batch of tea to be properly named Red Oolong, simply because the leaves are obviously only partially oxidized. The flavor of the tea has aspects of a Black Tea character while maintaining the fragrant, aromatic complexity of an Oolong.
The highest elevation tea growing regions are widely acknowledged as the epitome High Mountain Oolong Tea production.. The ideal climate conditions offered by this elevation combined with the methods of tea cultivation that have been developed are considered to be the main factors that have gained this category of tea its fame.
This is a rare batch of Da Yu Ling High Mountain Tea in that the level of oxidation exceeds the commonly produced tea in this region at highest elevation. The difference between the standard 10-15% level of oxidation and the less commonly produced 20-25% is that the light, floral, green character is transformed into a more fruity, substantial, smooth character of High Mountain Oolong.