Taiwan's High Mountain Tea Affected By Climate Change?
April 17, 2015
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.
Batch #50 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club starts off 2020 with a freshly harvested Alishan High Mountain Oolong Winter Tea from our ongoing source in Meishan Township. This very small batch of tea was their final day of winter harvest. The leaves were not yet fully mature, and offer a fresh, distinctly aromatic and complex flavor profile.
The photo above is this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club undergoing solar withering on November 11, 2019. This was the final day of winter harvest for our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, and we were able to procure enough of this very minimal batch to share with our Tea Club. This date was 3 days after Li Dong (立冬) in the lunar calendar, and the winter harvest of High Mountain Tea had for the most part been completed in central Taiwan.
This summer 2017 crop of naturally cultivated and well bug bitten and matured leaves were processed as a traditional Oolong, which mainly means that they were well oxidized. The work that went into oxidizing these leaves was considerable as well as skillful. The leaves needed to be worked, and they got worked well! The result is a full-bodied, substantial brew that offers a very satisfying balance that starts with a mild smokiness, leading into a fruity body with mineral notes, and finishing with something reminiscent of old school Charms lollipops. It really does have a distinct plum powder/confectioner's sugar finishing note that is cushioned by that smoky mineral base. It's a mouthful!