Yesterday we visited our friend in Songbolin, Nantou County - Taiwan to taste some freshly made spring teas and collect some samples.
As usual, it was a very educational experience, as our friend and source of low elevation oolongs is always willing to share his wealth of knowledge in the industry. This time we learned about the story of a varietal of the Four Seasons Spring Oolong hybrid known both as Golden Orchid and simply Golden Oolong. This plant got its name from the bright yellowish spine of the leaves. We learned that this varietal was originally bred from a mutation of the Four Seasons Spring hybrid and first became popular as Golden Orchid （金蘭烏龍）in Mingjian tea growing region. After gaining a name for itself, higher elevation farmers began cultivating it and calling it Golden Oolong （黃金烏龍) - somewhat falsely differentiating it from the original name.
We were very intrigued by the floral yet balanced character that these leaves brewed, and it very likely will take the place of Tsui Yu Oolong for our new spring selections. We also collected a sample of this tea type from an anomaly of a tea source in this area that we are very excited about. Whereas virtually all tea gardens in this region machine harvest their crops, due to the conducive relatively flat landscape, as well as harvest 5-6 times a year - this farmer hand picks his crop and only harvests 3 times a year. This is a first in our knowledge of tea cultivation in this area, This farmer has committed to practicing much more sustainable farming methods - allowing his plants to maintain their vitality and growth cycle in the peak vegetation phase of the summer months rather than harvesting the leaves and causing the plant to "work harder". We are very intrigued by this innovative farm, and plan to keep close tabs on it. More news to come!
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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".