So this batch of tea was harvested in 2012, and only reached completion of its curing process in 2016. This artisan has taken tea making to another level. These processing and curing methods are unique in that they are an integration of various traditional and modern tea making methods to produce a character of tea that is reminiscent of Muzha Tieguanyin from Northern Taiwan. It is not comparable however, given that the tea types used and even the processing methods are quite different. It is simply the character and flavor notes that are experienced in brewing a pot of these tea leaves that bring a traditional Taiwanese Tieguanyin Oolong to mind.
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 in character, with a heady finish that is specific to an aged Oolong. The bubbles created in the tea pitcher when pouring off the brewed tea also 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, in Pingtung County.
This month's batch of Aged Harbor Tea that is being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club comes from the most unique source of tea we've discovered to date. Located along the coast near the southernmost tip of the island, it stands alone both in its story and character. In the image above, Mr. and Mrs. Zhu proudly present their inherited family tradition that they have innovated upon to make a unique type of tea.
Dana Ter, freelance writer and staff reporter for the Features section of the Taipei Times, recently approached Eco-Cha to be a subject of a piece she wrote on Taiwan's artisanal tea culture. We happily cooperated, and responded to her request to visit tea farms in the Taipei area by taking her to meet two tea farmers whom we've befriended in recent years. It turned out to be just what Dana was looking for — tea producers who represent the boutique artisan tea culture in Taiwan.
As a singular tea type, we just keep coming back to a well made Dong Ding Oolong for one of the most reliably satisfying character and flavor profiles. And this batch was selected and roasted by a friend who happens to be the most respected professional competition player and master roaster we know. Due to his continued success in virtually all of Taiwan's competitions within the roasted Oolong category, he has been invited to conduct seminars for tea makers from all over Taiwan. He is a leading professional in the art of roasting tea. And we are lucky enough to be offered his award winning batches to share with our Tea Club members.
Beyond the fact that the standard of quality in this competition represents our personal favorite — Traditional Dong Ding Oolong, we determined this batch especially worthy of sharing based on its source. The same batch of freshly made tea was divided into several smaller batches and roasted separately. The subtle differences in the outcome of each separately roasted entry batch were tasted by leading professionals and ranked at 4th place, top 2%, and top 8%. We see this as testimony to the decisive finesse involved in the roasting process. On a given day, each roasted batch from the same harvest will have a different outcome. And it is the skill of the master roaster to determine how to navigate each individual roasting process.
The leaves shown above were harvested in the Shanlinxi High Mountain Tea growing region last spring, and have undergone 8 separate roasting sessions. The first three preliminary roastings were done in a conventional oven in preparation for the traditional method of using charcoal made from the Longan fruitwood.
These leaves have undergone 8 separate roastings over a few months, for a total roasting time of about 50 hours. Our friend first prepared his tea leaves for charcoal roasting by roasting them 3 times in a conventional oven roaster at low temperature of 80 -100°C. This provides a "base" roasting level that the charcoal roasting can proceed from more efficiently. The leaves were then handed over to a specialized charcoal roaster who charges a standard fee, regardless of how many roastings are needed to achieve the desired results. In this case, it was 5 roasting sessions of incrementally increasing heat, starting from about 90° and finishing at 120°.
So we invite you to join us as we continue on our endless journey to seek out and discover singular seasonal batches of tea that are one-of-a-kind specialties, not available anywhere else. We will continue to tell the story of each batch of tea we select, sharing photos that offer windows into this rich world of Taiwanese teas and the culture in which is flourishes. We tell you all about the tea, where it comes from, how it's made, and share a sip-along-with-us tasting video with each unique batch. Come along for the adventure with the Eco-Cha Tea Club as we make another cycle around the sun, drawing us to remote mountainous regions around the beautiful island of Taiwan!
The tea leaves shown above are from a rare batch of winter tea that was affected by the Green Leafhopper. This is the insect that is responsible for the existence of the renowned Oriental Beauty Tea, and the more recent innovation of Concubine Oolong Tea. The presence of this insect indicates that pesticides were not administered during the growing season to deter it. And the effect it has on the bug-bitten leaves is a distinct honey like character prominently in the aroma, but also in the flavor.