Spring 2015 Dong Ding Oolong: Second (Lucky) Batch

August 02, 2015

After procuring our favorite batch in recent years from this artisan of Dong Ding Oolong last fall, we were also very happy with our initial purchase of his spring harvest. The only problem was that we sold out of it much sooner than planned. Luckily we've been in continuous contact with this farmer in recent months.

Dong Ding Oolong Tea

Tea Type: Qing Xin Oolong 青心烏龍
Location: Yonglong, Nantou 永隆村,南投縣
Elevation: 750m
Harvest: April 2015

We were there on the day that a sample of a different day's batch of spring tea was returned by a long term regular customer because it "tasted different than the usual".This batch was from the small plot of tea, separate from his main plot and just meters from his house, which is what produced our favored batch last fall. During the spring growing season, he realized that the new leaf growth on this plot had matured quickly at their middle stage. He decided to not administer the secondary phase of pest control, even though there was ample time before harvest. This allowed the leaves to be affected slightly by the Green Leaf Hopper after they were at least half-grown. Mr. Liu was very pleased with the final result, and decided to offer this unique batch of tea to his customer who began buying tea from his father decades ago.

The customer likes his tea leaves left unroasted, despite that this is the prime Dong Ding Oolong producing village in Taiwan. This batch of unroasted leaves brewed an especially substantial, balanced brew with just a hint of honey essence. This, however, is a flavor to which their loyal customer is not accustomed. He simply likes what he likes and is not interested in anything else. I tasted this returned sample with Mr. Liu, as he told me the story. I immediately responded, half jokingly, that he should offer another batch of unroasted leaves which suit the customer's taste, and I'll buy all of what remains of the "special batch". In the end, this is what happened.

Mr. Liu and Andy chat while the minimal summer harvest's leaves wither in the sun.

It just so happened that our film shoot with a Buddhist-based television station coincided with Mr. Liu's subsequent harvest. He had pruned his tea trees back quite a bit after spring harvest from his main plot, and decided that he would not administer any pesticides at all during the next growing season, with the intent of producing a batch of Concubine Tea. Of course, Concubine Tea needs to have it's leaves bitten by the tiny Green Leaf Hopper for it to have its signature "honey fragrance" along with its bold character. In retrospect, we realized that he was taking an extra risk by pruning his trees extensively and not protecting the "open wounds" from pests in any way afterwards. This challenges the plants' immunity in a radical way, which in the long run, is most likely a good thing.

Mr. Liu's plot of tea at summer harvest, after the tea trees were pruned a couple months prior.

Other farmers would see it as dangerous in the sense that the plants would produce far fewer leaves in the subsequent crop, at least, and with unreliable quality. And this proved to be true. The June harvest amounted to a small fraction of what this plot normally produced. The minimal leaves that grew from the pruned trees were heavily affected by the Green Leaf Hopper, stunting their growth significantly, and making them more difficult to process.

Similar to almost all the bug-bitten crops that we've tasted this year, this batch was heavily oxidized, closer to Black Tea than a standard Taiwan Oolong. The honey character was evident, but the astringent factor was high, as is common in summer crops at this elevation, combined with the radical growing conditions. While we continue to be intrigued by the character of this tea, knowing the conditions that created it, we decided not to procure this minimal harvest. Incidentally, we also have not found any other bug-bitten batch that we have been inspired to offer this year. We are learning that finding just the right combination of the bug-bitten effect on the leaves and the custom processsing of the leaves hitting the mark is a formula that verges on magic!

A view into the drone monitor while Mr. Liu supervises the solar withering phase of summer's harvest.

So, it was on my visit to taste the minimal batch of summer harvest that was filmed by the TV crew that we tasted the "special spring batch" that Mr. Liu had retrieved and put through a single roasting. I reiterated that I would like to buy this tea if it becomes available. He said yes, that he would provide his loyal customer with what they liked, and this batch could be ours. A couple weeks went by, and I took a friend who was visiting from the city up to visit Mr. Liu and see about getting this second batch of spring tea. We tasted it again, and decided that another short roasting session could bring it to its full potential of flavor. Mr. Liu had some family matters to attend to, so his nephew, Ah-Miao, the next generation of tea artisans in the family, offered to roast the tea for us.

When we went to pick it up, Ah-Miao related how — on the day he was to roast the tea, it rained heavily in the afternoon. This being less-than-ideal weather conditions for roasting, he waited until the middle of the night, long after the rain had stopped, to begin roasting. The leaves went into the oven at 3 a.m. and within 3 hours, Ah-Miao determined them to be "just right", knowing what I like. I have had several opportunities to be present during Mr. Liu and Ah-Miao's final preparations of competition teas. Being there in the final hours of roasting, usually over 20 hours total, and tasting the difference hour-to-hour until the leaves are determined to be done is truly a privilege. Ah-Miao's judgement proved to be accurate, and we are exceedingly pleased with our second batch of spring tea from our good friends in Yonglong Village, the heart of Dong Ding Oolong Country.





Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in News

Alishan high mountain jin xuan oolong tea farm
Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong Summer 2020: Buttered Love

June 21, 2020

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 here to get your share.

View full article →

Wenshan Bazhong dried tea leaves
Competition Grade Wenshan Baozhong Tea Tasting Notes| Eco-Cha Tea Club

June 18, 2020 1 Comment

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.

View full article →

Wenshan Baozhong tea field
Competition Grade Wenshan Baozhong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club

June 14, 2020

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. 

View full article →