Spring Harvest 2014 Report #7 - Spring Shopping Begins!
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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Eco-Cha Tea Club's batch #48 is Alishan High Mountain Black Tea. It has a very balanced, integrated flavor profile, and offers subtle notes of a Qing Xin Oolong. The brewed leaves still have a greenish hue, even though the stems are quite reddish, indicating nearly full oxidation. It is an interesting hybrid of tea types, but definitely acts more like a Black Tea made from the small leaf type Qing Xin strain.
This very small fall harvest of naturally cultivated Oolong leaves was painstakingly processed by a father and son team who are top representatives of their local tea industry. The most inspiring fact is that the son is wholeheartedly inheriting his family's tradition, and this small batch of tea is testimony to that.
The name "Hong Shui (Red Water) Oolong" has been a buzzword in Oolong circles in recent years. But the tea makers who have inherited their local tradition say that this is simply a new name for tea processed like their grandfathers taught them. It used to just be called "Oolong Tea"!