Highly unusual weather conditions during this year's spring tea growing season have resulted in considerable damage to the produce. The classic rainy season that typically ensues sometime in March and continues until May still has not arrived. We've had some rainy days, but nothing like the norm of almost daily rain for weeks-on-end. So the new growth on the tea plants has been about 70% of the normal amount.
This detrimental effect was just compounded by an unheard of cold front that came through this past week, causing frost in mountainous regions above 1500 m elevation. In other words, the majority of this year's spring crop of High Mountain Tea was seriously damaged by frostbite—in the middle of April! In Taiwan's subtropical environment, this is extremely unusual weather for this time of year. The absence of rain combined with the frost conditions in most of the high elevation regions has resulted in a yield of about half the normal amount.
The dark patches in these tea gardens show the effect of the frost on the new growth on the tea plants, in contrast to the vibrant green of the leaves that were less damaged. This is what tea farmers must face in their current challenges to their livelihood. Taiwanese news reports that farmers are discussing with local farmers' associations how to apply for government subsidies in the wake of this natural disaster affecting their industry.
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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".