In the first three months of the Eco-Cha Tea Club, we shared three distinct types of roasted teas to offer a warming, comforting cuppa through the cold winter months. Now, as the weather gradually warms, we're ready to share a batch of tea that is a prelude to spring. This batch is the very first harvest of a newly planted crop of heirloom Wuyi Oolong that is being cultivated organically. This is a strain of tea that originally comes from the Wuyi Mountains of mainland China, but it was cultivated in Central Taiwan until it was phased out by modern tea production decades ago. Below is a closeup of the new Wuyi tea trees that were pruned in preparation for the new season's growth. We can see the small white flower buds that will ideally be removed so the plant can put its energy into producing more leaves than flowers and seeds.
Here is Mr. Xie showing us the crop as it now looks at three years old, as he takes advantage of the opportunity to pick some flower buds off the plants as we talk. This heirloom strain grows much slower than the hybrid strains currently grown in this region, so the plants will fill out to almost double their current size in the next couple years. Other strains reach almost full size by this age.
Now that the plants are reaching maturity, the plastic tarps that maintain moisture in the soil and prevent invasive weeds and pests during the fragile early growth stage will be removed from between the rows of tea trees. These will be replaced with leaf mulch and peanut shells that will slowly nourish the soil while having a similar effect as the tarps. The adjacent crop of Four Seasons Spring that was planted at the same time as the Wuyi crop have already developed sufficiently for this. We can see the ground space between the rows of tea is significantly less, as these trees have almost reached full size.
Here is a snapshot we took when Mr. Xie led us onto the farm for the first time two and a half years ago. And Andy's selfie he took with Mr. Xie the other day when he got to see the crop at its current stage of development. It was a gratifying experience to see that Mr. Xie and his partner Mr. Chen succeeded in their experimental attempt to organically cultivate an heirloom strain of tea that is now very rare.
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Red Oolong offers a smooth, balanced, mildly sweet, rich but not quite bold flavor profile, with elements of fruit compote, pumpkin pie, and a hint of dried flowers. This ultra-friendly character, combined with the fact that almost all Red Oolong is cultivated naturally on the southeast coast of Taiwan, facing the wide open Pacific, which reminds a North American of Washington State or British Columbia, is no wonder why it is rapidly gaining popularity on the international market. Once again, Taiwan leads the way in Oolong Tea innovation!