Batch 94 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Ying Xiang Small Leaf Black Tea from Lugu, Taiwan. Ying Xiang means "alluring fragrance", and it is the name given to this tea cultivar that was produced by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES). It is also known as Tai Cha #20 — being the 20th cultivar to be promoted by the TRES. This cultivar is a cross between the most commonly grown tea strain on Taiwan — Qing Xin Oolong, and the second most commonly grown cultivar — Jin Xuan Tai Cha #12, also known as "milk oolong'. The term "small leaf" is used to refer to any tea strain that is not of the "large leaf" species of tea plants that are classically used to make Black Tea, such as Assam, Red Jade #18, and Taiwan's indigenous tea tree that is simply referred to as "Shan Cha" or "Mountain Tea".
Ying Xiang was agriculturally designed to endure dry spells and cold spells, and it is appreciated for its pronounced aromatic profile. It is mostly processed as a partially oxidized Oolong Tea, but it also shines as a fully oxidized Black Tea as well. Over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly more common for Oolong Tea producers to make Black Tea with their summer/fall crops of tea leaves. Hotter weather produces higher concentrations of certain polyphenolic compounds in the tea leaves that have bitter and astringent qualities. However, when these compounds are oxidized, these qualities are transformed to produce a more flavorful tea. This batch of tea was made from the new growth following spring harvest. It was only allowed to mature for 38 days after the previous harvest. This was done intentionally to use young tender leaf material to make Small Leaf Black Tea.
We were introduced to this family of Oolong artisans more than ten years ago. The farmer in the photo is the nephew of our original source, who is now well into his eighties. The nephew has really come into his own as a tea producer and professional. In recent years, he has been employed at the Lugu branch of the TRES, and does a lot of outreach to the younger generation of farmers all over the island. He has also embraced the production of Black Tea more than any of our local Oolong artisan friends. He purchased a Black Tea rolling machine and has become a resource in his community for this service.
We are inspired by this "new generation" (he's well into his forties) of talent and traditional knowledge. It literally is next level from his father's, uncle's and grandfather's expertise. We feel proud and honored to represent this living tradition straight from the heart of Oolong Tea Country — in Yonglong Village, Lugu Township, Taiwan.
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