Taiwan's High Mountain Tea Affected By Climate Change?
April 18, 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.
This batch of Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong summer 2020 harvest has a very pronounced buttery character. Starting with the leaves put into the pre-heated tea judging cup, they exuded a pronounced buttered toast/popcorn aroma. But the flavor profile is replete with an uncanny buttered popcorn note, it's almost unbelievable! How can tea leaves do this?! It's not only buttered popcorn either! There are distinct floral and vegetal notes that balance out the incredulous and delicious buttered popcorn flavor. OK, enough repetitive description! Click hereto get your share.
This is what an award winning Wenshan Baozhong Tea looks like, in its dry leaf state, of course. Notice the uniformity in the size and coloration of the leaves. The yellow hues are only in the spine of the leaves, which would naturally protrude into a stem, but the stems have been removed, along with the larger, lighter colored, over-matured leaf stock. This uniformity of leaf material offers a pure flavor profile. It allows for a complexity of aromatic and flavor notes, but it comes from a uniform stock which is essential in producing a purity of character. This is a fundamental aspect of competition grade tea. It's not muddled. It's refined.
Batch #55 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an award-winning Wenshan Baozhong Tea that was entered in the recent spring tea competition of the local Farmers' Association. Preparation for competition involves removing the bulkier stems from the leaves, and also sorting the leaves by coloration to achieve the most uniform stock of leaf material possible.