Dropping in on my friend and local artisan of Dong Ding Oolong, I was promptly led out back to where the patriarch of this family was shearing the morning's harvest of spring bamboo shoots and packing them up for local market sellers.
This patriarch also happens to be a repeated past recipient of top ranking prizes in the local, and most prestigious Dong Ding Oolong Tea competitions. His family farm and factory have been inherited by his sons and grandsons, and he spends his days tending a substantial vegetable garden and doing things like harvesting bamboo shoots—not easy work! Yet, such an admirable lifestyle. World-class artisan of traditional Oolong Tea, humbly relinquishing his life work in developing his inheritance of tea making to his heirs.
His son holds up a large mature root while describing the quality and price difference between this and the smaller shoots his father places at the top of the prime stack. Notice the glove that Mr. Liu wears on his left hand. This is protection from the outer bark of the bamboo that has sharp edges. The entire outer leaf parts are removed and the inner, crisp tender shoot is prepared in various ways.
Bamboo is prevalent throughout Lugu township, and precedes tea as a main staple crop for local farmers. Tea has overcome bamboo as the primary produce, but bamboo has certainly not been abandoned. Lugu is renowned for its quality bamboo shoots, and local farmers have not forgotten how their ancestors made a living from harvesting bamboo.
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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.