The photo above is this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club undergoing solar withering on November 11, 2019. This was the final day of winter harvest for our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, and we were able to procure enough of this very minimal batch to share with our Tea Club. This date was 3 days after Li Dong (立冬) in the lunar calendar, and the winter harvest of High Mountain Tea had for the most part been completed in central Taiwan.
The last day of winter harvest consisted of leaves that had not yet reached maturity, but had already slowed in their growth and needed to be picked before they became tough and leathery. The smaller leaves were thicker than usual, due to the slow winter growing season — and this is what makes them special. The time of harvest does not officially qualify them as "Dong Pian" tea, but their character is very similar. The relatively minimal water content in the leaves that have grown slowly during the drier winter season offers a unique flavor profile that is both delicate in flavor and pronounced in its aromatic qualities.
Dong Pian Tea is basically the bumper crop following the winter harvest. It is leaves that were very immature at the time of winter harvest, but continued to grow after the harvest to reach a mature enough stage of growth to warrant a harvest. Dong Pian is more common at lower elevations, where the climate remains warm enough to keep the plants active. It is also more commonly produced with the Jin Xuan and Four Seasons Spring strains, which are more prolific and less sensitive to growing conditions. Dong Pian is very rarely produced at higher elevations, especially from the Qing Xin Oolong strain. So this crop is the closest we get to Dong Pian at this elevation, at least from this farm.
We actually figured this minimal batch was already spoken for when we watched the initial stages of processing on the day we visited. So we were delighted to hear that we could procure a small amount of it. The cost of labor to painstakingly harvest and process this minimal crop is not profitable for the farmer, but it's just too hard to let go! So we again feel privileged to be able to have a share in this singular batch of tea that represents the specialty tea industry in Taiwan.
Let us know what you think about this batch of Alishan High Mountain Winter Tea, and also please post any questions you may have about this month's edition of the Eco-Cha Tea Club!
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