The photo above shows new leaf growth at the optimal growth stage for harvest, particularly given this year's drought conditions. Normally, the leaves would be a bit larger. But the most essential factor is that there is sufficient new leaf growth that is still in its vibrant growth stage. This is most obviously indicated by pert V-shape contour of the newest growth. The leaves lower down on the newly sprouted branches will eventually flatten out, and settle into their more "permanent" vegetation stage. It's the new, vibrant leaves that are mature enough to have substance, but tender enough to be optimal raw material for premium Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea.
Here is the team of pickers starting their day in the early morning rising sun with perfect harvest weather conditions! We learned a lesson this year in how the contour of a mountainside, and the micro-climate that is created by sun exposure plays an essential role in the ability of the tea trees to produce. Just over the hill, there was almost no new growth due to lack of rain. But here, in this pocket of a flat spot on the eastern side of the mountain, the trees produced a fine crop, although in less volume than normal.
Sufficient elevation, facing the right direction, bringing daily fog, allowed for a proper crop of tea to be produced from this plot of tea. Other plots on this same mountain, with different slopes and other variants, could not produce at all!
Properly grown leaf, perfect weather for solar withering. These are the two primary factors in producing a prime batch of High Mountain Tea. It's the quality of raw produce plus the weather conditions during the harvest and solar withering that are most important.
And this is a very close second in terms of the essential factors of producing a premium batch of High Mountain Oolong. The timing and proper management of the slow indoor withering process combined with shuffling of the leaves, and then the tumble heating/fixing step are also essential in optimizing the quality of a day's harvest. This one is a winner!
When we sat down to taste this tea in the factory, a local tea farmer drove up to procure his share in this crop. All he needed to see to decide to buy this tea was the quality of the leaf growth before it was picked. And his agenda is to enter it in the second largest Oolong Tea competition in Taiwan (oh, and in the world as well)!
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