Fall Tea Shopping In Alishan Oolong Country

October 01, 2015

My next door neighbor in Zhushan, Nantou County finally took me to meet his tea source of 15 years in the Alishan High Mountain Tea producing region. Mr. Wang, my neighbor, appeared on my back porch the other day while I was cooking in the kitchen to ask if I wanted to come with him the following day to taste some fall tea. He said his tea farmer friend called him to say that he had just double roasted some of his fall crop and thought it would be to his liking. I readily agreed to go.

Upon meeting Mr. Ye, the farmer, I knew my neighbor had a reliable supplier. His humble manner and simple, direct communication was recognized as what I value the most in the industry here. An independent farmer with decades of experience producing small batches of Oolong Tea in a secluded mountainous environment. The photo above was taken from the second floor window of his tea factory, and his home. His tea farm is behind the first mountain ridge in the background. 

Mr. Ye used his palm and his eye to determine the amount of tea leaves to brew from three different batches. He brewed in white porcelain bowls, allowing us to observe the leaves as they brewed. Smelling the fragrance steaming off porcelain spoons dipped into the tea as the leaves opened. Pushing the leaves aside and viewing the color and clarity of the brewed tea. And eventually ladeling the brewed tea out with the spoon into cups to taste. This is the common brewing method at the source. 

The brew that immediately caught my attention was from a bug-bitten crop of spring tea. The flavor had the notable "honey fragrance" character that earns its name. It was only "roasted dry" without a secondary roast to qualify it as Concubine Tea, so it still had a fresh green character that was more akin to High Mountain Tea. This makes sense, coming from the Alishan region, where most farmers sell their produce unroasted. I'm happy to say, however, that more farmers in this region are oxidizing their tea leaves sufficiently enough to be suitable for roasting. This emulates a more traditional Oolong with significant oxidation that can be enjoyed as is, or roasted, and even aged.

The second brew of interest was the double roast. This batch was harvested late in the season, ten days after the third brew's batch, and well after the August rains had stopped. It was a tasty, almost zesty combination of fresh High Mountain Oolong Tea with an added ripeness and complexity brought on by roasting. I liked it. And since I was happily in the capacity of just being a neighbor along for the ride, I could simply enjoy the tea. The third brew was from a batch of significantly younger leaves, and less oxidized. In this sense, it was of the type that is more in demand in the mainstream market. I uninhibitedly announced it to be too green for my taste.

My neighbor decided to buy about 20 pounds of the double roast, and I bought a few as well. I also bought a couple of the remaining pre-packaged bags of the bug-bitten spring tea. For me, this was one more circumstance to express my support and gratitude for someone producing the kind of tea I know and appreciate most. And it was another research opportunity to take home some of this tea that made a good first impression, and really get to know it after many brews. In the photo below, my neighbor watches and lends a helping hand in the packaging of our tea.





Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in News

Eco-Cha Tea Club: Competition Grade Dong Ding Oolong Tea Tasting Notes
Eco-Cha Tea Club: Competition Grade Dong Ding Oolong Tea Tasting Notes

August 10, 2019 1 Comment

These leaves were harvested by hand from the residential farm that is our ongoing source of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. They were also de-stemmed by hand and roasted extensively to meet the competition standard. The brewed tea has a bold roasted character that is balanced out by a rich, smooth textured and complex flavor profile. It is reminiscent of fire-roasted yams and butternut squash. 

View full article →

Eco-Cha Tea Club: Competition Grade Dong Ding Oolong Tea
Eco-Cha Tea Club: Competition Grade Dong Ding Oolong Tea

August 02, 2019 1 Comment

This month's edition of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is from the same day's harvest of spring tea that our source received the Top 2% Award out of 750 odd participants in the spring 2019 competition. This month's batch of tea was prepared the same way as the award winning tea — removing the stems by hand and undergoing repeated roastings to meet the standard of quality set by this local competition. Only residents of this small community of traditional tea makers are eligible to enter this competition. But this is the heart of Dong Ding Oolong Country, and this community boasts the densest population of traditional Oolong Tea artisans in Taiwan, and probably in the world!

View full article →

Eco-Cha Tea Club: Alishan Late Spring Oolong Tea Tasting Notes
Eco-Cha Tea Club: Alishan Late Spring Oolong Tea Tasting Notes

July 12, 2019 1 Comment

The complex aroma of the brewed tea leaves has subtle hints of a bug bitten character, but not very obvious. The sufficient oxidation offers a fresh scone scent, with a touch of honey, making us think that there is some influence from the Green Leafhopper. It is very likely that this note is subtle due to the fact that it had rained very near harvest time, which is said to dilute or dissipate the chemical compounds that are responsible for this character of flavor. The texture is smooth and balanced, with delicate complexity. 

View full article →