Batch 75 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Ying Xiang Dong Pian Oolong Tea from Yonglong Village in Lugu, Taiwan —at 700m elevation. Ying Xiang (迎香) means "Alluring Aroma", and is the name given to Tai Cha #20. This is a relatively recent hybrid tea cultivar introduced by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station less than 10 years ago, and has slowly but surely gained popularity — especially at mid-elevation tea growing regions. Dong Pian is a name that is designated to crops of tea that are harvested more than two weeks after Li Dong (立冬), a date on the Lunar Calendar that winter tea harvest is centered around. Traditionally, anytime two weeks prior or following Li Dong is the proper time for winter tea harvest. More than two weeks after Li Dong can be considered Dong Pian, which we choose to translate simply as "Late Winter" harvest.
This crop was harvested on December 19, and Li Dong fell on November 7, 2021. So this batch of tea certainly qualifies as Dong Pian! Due to the late growing season, Dong Pian grows slowly, and is subjected to a wider range of diurnal temperature variations. This results in a more substantial composition of flavor components in the leaves. This year, winter season got more rain than normal, so the leaves did not get overly fibrous or dried. They were still supple enough to process efficiently. More often than not, Dong Pian leaf stock has already become overly mature and waxy, which makes it a stubborn leaf to process. As a result, the typical character of Dong Pian is a very green, grassy flavor profile, but offers exceptionally fragrant aromatic notes. This batch was able to be processed more like a traditional Oolong, and offers a more full-bodied flavor profile along with a very fresh, fragrant aroma.
We can see that in the initial processing stage of solar withering, the leaves are still rigidly holding their shape, and are more mature than the standard leaf stock. But with experience and know-how, our friend — who is third generation heir of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea makers, was able to coax these leaves into a relatively advanced stage of oxidation.
After many hours of gradual withering, the leaves are slowly tumbled in these large woven bamboo cylinders. This gently bruises the leaves, while stimulating circulation to induce a more uniform depletion of moisture, and subsequent oxidation.
After tumbling, the leaves are heaped onto bamboo trays and left to set for hours. At this stage, the chemical constituents in the leaves begin to transform, creating heat from the internal chemical reactions. This is basically the very first stage of decomposition. And this is where the magic of Oolong Tea making happens.
Dong Pian Oolong Tea is rare by definition, since it is essentially a minimal bumper crop following winter harvest. It is most commonly produced at lower elevation, where the changes in seasonal weather throughout winter are less. We feel that mid-elevation is ideal for this specialty crop, as it offers sufficient distinction from winter and other seasonal harvests but is still supple enough to process skillfully. Higher elevations tend to be very green and monotone in their character.
We first met this young farmer several years ago. He is the nephew of one of our most respected elder artisans, from whom we used to source tea. He is well into his eighties now, and his nephew is embodying the tradition more than other heirs of their lineage. We are humbled and honored to move from one generation to the next in our favorite tea spot of all — the Feng Huang Yong Long Community in Lugu Township, Taiwan.
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