We recently received this question from Eco-Cha Tea Club member Paul in Norway:
For the tea of the month you said "integrating traditional Tieguanyin oxidation methods with Dong Ding roasting skills." I was wondering if you could describe this process in more detail?
Basically, traditionally made Tieguanyin is a heavily oxidized, heavily roasted tea. The leaves are allowed to oxidize for at least 2 days after being harvested, and reach around 50% oxidation before they are exposed to high heat to kill the live enzymes in the tea leaves that are responsible for the oxidation process.
This batch of Tieguanyin was oxidized somewhat less than the standard traditional Tieguanyin methods, but much more than the standard oxidation of tea leaves that are being made into a traditional Dong Ding Oolong. So the oxidation level and the procedure involved is somewhere between Dong Ding Oolong and Tieguanyin, but closer to Tieguanyin.
After the leaves are processed (dehydrated, oxidized, rolled and fully dried), both of these tea types undergo extensive roasting to achieve their distinct character. However, the roasting methods for these two tea types are quite different. These leaves were roasted as a standard Dong Ding Oolong.
So it is both in the adjusted level of oxidation that is between these two tea making methods, and the alternative roasting method of using the Dong Ding Oolong style rather than the Tieguanyin style that this tea embodies an integration of traditionally made Oolong tea. The leaves from the Tieguanyin strain have a distinct flavor that can be adjusted according to the processing methods used. We think this just might be a newly discovered and relatively ideal way to bring out the best of what these leaves have to offer.
Last, but not at all least — we are really interested in what you have to say about your experience of this tea. What does this new breed of traditional Taiwanese Oolong tea mean to you? What else would you like to know about it?
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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".