Competition Grade Wuyi Oolong | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Batch 61 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club comes from the same plot of tea as last month's batch. When we tasted this month's batch of unroasted Wuyi Oolong, following the heavily roasted batch that we shared last month, we were inspired to offer these two very different characters of tea back-to-back. Tasting these two batches of tea that were made from basically the same raw produce (different seasonal harvests), but processed differently, provides an educational experience on how significant processing methods are in determining the final product.
Our friend planted this plot of Wuyi Oolong in 2015. He decided to cultivate a plot of the now rare Wuyi cultivar to be able to offer a specialized tea type that is tribute to his local tradition. Wuyi was commonly cultivated in Songboling prior to the introduction of the modern hybrid strains of Jin Xuan, Tsui Yu and Four Seasons Spring. Wuyi was phased out primarily because this strain produces much less yield than the modern strains. Throughout the 80's and 90's especially, this region went for quantity over quality. Now, in the last decade or more, tea makers are trending back to producing more quality and specialty teas.
Partially influenced by our cooperation with him as our supplier of teas from this region, he decided to cultivate this plot of Wuyi Oolong naturally. We represented an international demand for naturally cultivated tea, and he was inspired to meet this demand in this respect. So this tea is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Batch 4 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club was the first proper harvest from this farm. Below is a photo of the farm at around one year old. The plastic ground covering was only used in the first year of establishing the farm to prevent weed growth that would bring more pests, and to maintain moisture in the soil. After the trees reached a stable stage of growth, the ground covering was removed and replaced with peanut, sesame, and tea seed husks to do the same job naturally.
When we revisited the farm a month ago to get some current photos, we were very happy to see how healthy the tea plants are. It's not often that an organic grower can cultivate tea trees that are as flush as these, not to mention that Wuyi is a relatively challenging strain to cultivate successfully. This story is the kind of stuff that keeps us inspired to show up at the tea tables and on the farms of local producers to encourage them to keep doing what they do best. We, the consumers, really are a major influence in keeping this precious tradition alive.
Our friend is one of the most successful tea competition players in Taiwan. He had this month's batch of tea destemmed by hand in preparation for entry in a national organic tea competition. But instead, he offered the first batch of meticulously gleaned tea leaves to us, and forewent entry in this year's competition, because he didn't have time to prepare a second batch. We only discovered this weeks after we asked to procure this tea, and were a bit remorseful, but also very grateful to be offered this tea.
We brewed up this tea and did a taste comparison. Read all about it in our tasting notes writeup!
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We have become close friends, and this is a unique connection in our 25 years of involvement with tea producers in the local Taiwan tea industry. This farm is a rare resource, given its environment and micro-climate. The owners have faced many challenges and only in the last few years have developed their organic farming to a stable situation. Now, with some support and guidance, we believe they will soon be producing some of the best organic tea in Taiwan!