Last Sunday I visited our source of Dong Ding Oolong in Yonglong Village, Nantou County.
He was in the final hour of roasting a batch of his spring tea harvest to be entered in the world's largest Oolong Tea Competition.
Upon arriving, I tasted the tea that he had taken out of his traditional style basket roaster and brewed just minutes before to monitor the progress of the roast. That was the middle cup and bowl on the tray in the above photo. "Almost there", I commented, and my friend agreed.
Less than 20 minutes later, he brewed again. I said something about it being just right. The artisan agreed, and then proceeded to teach me a lesson about roasting.
He told me how it is necessary to go beyond the point of the tea tasting just right in the process of roasting in order to accommodate the changes in the tea leaves after they cool down and are exposed to atmospheric conditions. The level of consideration goes so far as to calculate the number of days before the leaves will be brewed and judged, and forecasting the weather on the day the leaves are repackaged upon entering the competition.
The photos above and below show batches of tea being entered in the competition. Each competitor submits a 22 jin (one jin = 600g) vacuum sealed bag of tea, which is opened upon entry, repackaged and codified for anonymity. A sample of each batch is coded and kept aside for use in the tea judging process. And the competition begins....
Comments will be approved before showing up.
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.