Inaugural Organic Harvest: Oolong Tea Roasting Process - Part Two
So here we are, in the final phase of processing the first harvest of certified organic tea from Mr. and Mrs. Lin's new farm! Here is Mrs. Lin destemming the last bit of tea before the second half of the batch is roasted for a second time.
Most oolong tea artisans agree that the most subtle and unpredictable aspect of making tea is in the roasting process. Mr. Lin is now in the process of getting to know the produce from his new crop of a new varietal of tea - Tai Cha #20. In determining how to go about roasting tea leaves, the artisan takes into account the entire process, beginning with the condition of the leaves while they are still on the bush, and the way they were cured, and how they brew after the initial processing is completed.
Here's a snapshot of Nick and Andy previewing the footage that their videographer friend Sean just shot of Mr. Lin putting the second batch in the oven to be used in our upcoming documentary of this entire event.
With the intention of producing both a light roast and a heavier roast from this harvest, two separate approaches were taken. Basically, the temperature of roasting was varied at the beginning of the roasting process and continued to be monitored and adjusted as the leaves are brewed throughout the roasting process. He we are, tasting both versions of the tea after two roastings of each, to determine which will be left as a light roast and which will undergo further roasting to produce a more traditional, heavier roasted oolong.
After draining bowls of brewed tea as we tasted them again and again, we decided to take samples of each home and examine the brews a few more times before making a decision. This weekend a choice will be made, and the final step will be taken in producing a more roasted version of this tea, while keeping the lighter one as is. Both are tasting very nice, it's simply a judgment call about which one is optimal for another round of roasting, or maybe even two!
We are anxiously looking forward to packaging up both light and heavy roasts to send of to all of our backers who supported this campaign. Thanks again to all of you who have supported us and followed us on our journey!
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.