When Andy, Eco-Cha's tea sourcer, first visited this farm three years ago, it was like a dream come true.
He had just recently become specifically committed to exploring and supporting sustainable practice in the tea industry in Taiwan, and this farm exceeded his expectations. As he was given an extensive tour of the tea plantation by its owner who developed it on his own, he literally had to hold back his emotions so as not to alarm his host.
Discovering this farm was a pivotal event in our exploration of organic tea farming on Taiwan. We had previously visited other certified organic farms and many variations of “transitional” tea gardens, but this one stands alone in its fully developed naturally thriving state. The owner of this farm has pioneered the profession of organic high elevation tea farming in Taiwan. The land was purchased 26 years ago and developed from its pristine state by its current owner.
During a period of agricultural development in Taiwan when chemical products were highly promoted and hence overused, this farmer never used weed killer products on his land. In addition, from the time the farm was established he applied only minimal amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This is why the farm was able to obtain organic certification in 1999 within a mere 5 years of becoming transitional, i.e. ceasing to use chemical products of any kind.
Unlike many other certified organic farms, this farmer has personally researched and employed holistic, sustainable methods of cultivating an eco-system of flora and fauna to allow his tea plants to thrive. The organic certification is from the strictest standard in Taiwan (慈心有機驗證). This tea garden is now a prototype of low-impact natural tea cultivation, and we are proud and privileged to promote it as a leader in this trend. It is located on He Huan Mountain in Nantou County at 1500 m elevation above a large reservoir - providing a natural climate control system of daily fog rising up from the body of water below, bringing moisture and cooler temperatures.
The unroasted leaves from this farm produce a fresh, clean, silky smooth brew with qualities that are akin to the tea grown in its neighboring Lishan area. The flavor and aroma are subtle and well balanced. There is a viscosity to the texture, and a floral aroma that lingers after drinking while leaving the palate clean and refreshed with a slightly sweet aftertaste.
This Organic High Mountain Oolong spring tea has a subtle flowery bouquet over a fresh green vegetal flavor. The balance of sweet and astringent qualities give it a distinctly stimulating effect that exudes through the nose.
The brewed tea leaves are noticeably thicker and more substantial than conventionally grown tea in similar environs. The refreshing and invigorating effect of this tea is also more robust. These organically cultivated leaves have greater tea brewing power as well. We see this as testimony to the beneficial effects of organic farming methods.
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The most commonly referred to trait in Leafhopper Tea is a honey-essence note in the fragrance as well as the flavor profile. This hint of honey varies greatly from batch to batch of "bug bitten tea", as it is also referred to locally. But the most general characteristic of this tea type is its bold complexity of aroma and flavor. It simply has a substance that clearly distinguishes it from a standard High Mountain Tea.
Above we see a local tea picker turning in freshly picked leaves to be weighed and recorded for commission. These new-growth, tender leaves were harvested on a beautiful sunny day at about 1500 meters elevation in the Shan Lin Xi tea growing region in southern Nantou County, central Taiwan.
Our expressed intention in sharing this batch of tea is to offer Eco-Cha Tea Club members a chance to experience the original unroasted flavor profile of a tea type that, in the local Taiwanese dialect, is simply called "Leafhopper Tea".