This tea is an anomaly – as it is the unorthodox result of an oversight.
When the leaves were undergoing indoor oxidation, they were inadvertently left on the top shelf of the indoor withering rack – high above eye level. They were discovered the next day, after they had oxidized to a level nearing that of red (black) tea – probably about 75%. From this point the tea master had to improvise his method in completing the processing of this small batch of “forgotten” tea leaves.
Given that these leaves are from the winter harvest (which this year produced about half the volume of an average yield, due to an unusually cold and dry start to the growing season), the farmer was not about to sacrifice his precious crop. The result is a tea that is a unique happenstance of using winter harvested high mountain oolong leaves to produce a very interesting “red oolong” or black tea.
This farm has consistently been the source of prize winning tea in Taiwan's largest tea competitions due to the expertise of its proprietor. Eco-Cha procured the entire batch of this "forgotten tea" because we knew upon the first sip that it was special. A winter crop of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea grown at 1500m elevation that was mistakenly made into a red oolong or black tea is definitively a rare batch of tea. And many months later, after enjoying it regularly - we are only more confident in our choice of sourcing this unique selection.
Owned and operated by a prominent tea artisan with several decades of experience in tea cultivation. He has been awarded champion of the most prestigious Oolong Tea competition in the world which is held at the Lu Gu Farmers’ Association. Nevertheless, his humble character allows us to sit and chat with him in his modest first generation tea factory on a regular basis. The tea garden is cultivated without any chemical weed killers or fertilizers, and only minimal use of water soluble pesticides early in the growing season.
Upon tasting this tea, we immediately found it to be very intriguing and unprecedented in our experience.
Pouring off the first brew, the leaves exude a fragrance of freshly cut fruit wood with a faint hint of spearmint. The tea has a very rich, mellow, balanced character reminiscent of mulled wine and/or stewed apples and prunes.
A more refined palate might taste notes of cinnamon, vanilla, rose, and a hint of savory herbs. A simpler take on it could be summed up as “black cherry vanilla ice cream flavor”.
In our experience, this tea really is one of a kind. These leaves brew a hearty, yet soothing cup of tea that maintains the clean flavor and transparency of an oolong while embodying the richness of a red/black tea.
The leaves can withstand many infusions and still yield a full-bodied brew.
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.