When we procured the previous batch of Dong Ding Oolong from last fall's harvest, we intentionally bought a surplus amount, and with good reasons. Primarily, we really liked that fall batch of tea! Secondly, fall tea is considerably cheaper than winter and spring harvests. Furthermore, winter tea is in the highest demand on the local market, because it is the smallest yield, and the winter harvest precedes Chinese New Year, when tea is often the gift of choice. All these reasons add up to a more sustainable business practice.How does it equate to sustainable business practice? Well, when we can offer a quality of fall tea that we are proud to represent at a significantly cheaper price, we have economic transparency. It also bypasses the local market standards based on supply and demand for a minimal harvest at the biggest gift-giving time of year. There is also a local contingent of tea drinkers whose preference for winter tea is based on previous decades of appreciating a flavor profile which is less distinct now, apparently due to climate change.
The fact that we are here, on the ground and at the source year-round and for years on end has given us this comprehensive understanding of the production and marketing of this world-class traditional Oolong. And now that we've run out of last fall's batch, let's talk about the new batch of winter tea that we are finally offering so late in the season! This batch was roasted over two-months time following the winter harvest, and was ready for purchase as of last month. Here is the link to this batch of Dong Oolong Tea in our store.
This is the first batch of tea that we've sourced from this heritage farm in the heart of Dong Ding Oolong Country. We first met this farmer years ago, and got to know his son more recently by visiting the factory of our organic source of tea that he was hired to process a few years ago. The son is now taking on more and more responsibilities in managing the family farm, processing the seasonal harvests, and becoming active in the community. Here is a snapshot of Xie Ying Cao beside his main plot of tea just below their home in the background that we took when we picked up this batch.
This father and son team who manage their farm and process their harvests together have both won first prize in their local tea competition within the last ten years. This is an exclusive competition that only residents of the historical Dong Ding Oolong tea producing villages of Fenghuang, Yonglong, and Zhangya on Dong Ding Mountain are eligible to enter. This is home to the most concentrated population of traditional tea artisans in Taiwan, and very likely in the world. Here is a shot of Xie Senior, as he takes the off-season downtime opportunity to tend to his yard, and a close up of the lower section of their tea garden just above their factory.
Their tea farm is largely comprised of an early strain of Qing Xin Oolong that was planted over 30 years ago. It is locally acknowledged that these trees produce a character of tea that is distinct from more recent generations of the Qing Xin Oolong strain. When we stop to consider how fortunate we are to get to know these artisans of traditional tea in such a natural way — over many years, allowing circumstance and personal connections to determine our relationships and sources, we are simply humbled. When brewing their tea, we experience the subtleties of character determined by so many factors — from weather, to fertilizers, to processing methods and post-production roasting, we feel poignantly privileged to be a part of this traditional tea culture.
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.