The Eco-Cha Tea Club: Dong Ding Tieguanyin Oolong Tea
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 medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.