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.
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 batch #54 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Honey Hong Shui Oolong Tea sourced from our friends who have provided our Dong Ding Oolong Tea and our Small Leaf Black Teain recent years. They also made Batch #33 of the Eco-Cha Tea Clubwhich we shared in August 2018. Batch #33 was similar to this month's batch in that they were both made with the help of the Green Leafhopper.
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.
The leaves brew an exceptionally substantial, smooth, balanced tea with a very satisfying savory/sweet profile. The brewed leaves put forth fresh, buttery green leafy aromatic notes, like sauteed Swiss Chard. The tea is viscous, with an evenly balanced complexity of warming spices and unrefined sugary notes — cardamom, palm sugar, and butternut squash come to mind.
The father, now in his mid-70's, planted a plot of "small leaf Tieguanyin" cultivar on his family land in Yonglong Village, Lugu over 30 years ago. A tea merchant promised to procure this tea on a seasonal basis. He was one of the first to plant this heirloom Tieguanyin strain in central Taiwan. It had previously only been cultivated in northern Taiwan, with deep roots in strains brought from China hundreds of years ago.
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.
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.
This month, we are celebrating the third anniversary of the Eco-Cha Tea Club by sharing a batch of Fo Shou Oolong Tea for the very first time. The Chinese Fo Shou (佛手) means Buddha Hand. The name refers to the tea plant, or cultivar, which classifies as a large leaf type. This puts it in the category of Assam, and wild strains of tea, along with the Taiwanese hybrid cultivar — Red Jade #18. Despite the fact that virtually all large leaf type strains of tea are cultivated for Black Tea production in Taiwan, Fo Shou has found its unique niche in the making of (partially oxidized) Oolong Tea. Similar to its predecessor in mainland China, this batch of Fo Shou was made in the fashion of traditionally made Tie Guan Yin from Mu Zha, Taiwan.