Dong Pian Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Batch 64 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club comes from this family farm/home factory in Phoenix Village, Lugu Township, Taiwan. It's a late winter harvest of their plot of Ying Xiang #20 that was processed in the local fashion. Ying Xiang is a hybrid cultivar developed by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) that was made public less than 10 years ago. It has a character that is regarded as closest to the classic Qing Xin Oolong strain among the populare TRES hybrid strains.
Dong Pian is the name given to batches of tea that are harvested any time later than the two week cycle following Li Dong (立冬), which designates the middle of winter tea harvest. Any time two weeks prior to or after Li Dong is traditionally the winter harvest season. Li Dong fell on November 7, 2020 — and this batch of tea was harvested in the first week of December.
We've known Mr. and Mrs. Chen for well over a decade and have learned a great deal about the local tea industry from them. Mr. Chen is our ongoing source of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea, and finally we are able to offer his home produce of Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. We've spent many nights in the small factory that makes up one side of their traditional 3-sided house, watching tea being cured and lending a hand when we can... It's become one of our favorite overall tea spots.
The central altar room of the Chen family home still maintains the original hand-crafted wooden doorway and roof beams. It truly represents the generations of tea making tradition that have transitioned into the 21st century. This is yet one more example of how we feel privileged to have found a niche in this local culture. It's an honor to represent this living tradition.
On the day that we picked up this month's batch of tea, we went down to the farm to talk about what "Dong Pian" actually is, and how the term has been misused in the last decade or so. We examined the leaf growth on the trees, and heard (once again) about how this name is now given to bumper crops of tea leaves that are gleaned after winter harvest, but have become toughened and even discolored by their age.
In a word, Dong Pian is often used to represent the desperate final harvest of an annual cycle that doesn't really qualify as its own growing season. Rather, it's the remainder of leaves that weren't mature enough to pick at winter harvest. This stands in contrast to this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club. This crop of tea was the new growth that matured following the previous harvest on October 10. And given that this plot of tea is at a low to mid-elevation of about 500m, the climate remained conducive to further growth through November and into December.
This is an isolated plot of tea surrounded by bamboo and betelnut groves, a few hundred meters above a river in an undeveloped valley below Phoenix Mountain. This elevation and climate is where traditional Oolong Tea evolved in central Taiwan. This batch of tea represents generations of tea making experience coupled with 21st century systematized farming practice. It's the cutting edge of local artisan tea culture in Taiwan.
And here we are, bringing this geographically unique central Taiwan tea culture to you. Let's all continue to work together in support of yet another fragile artisan culture that will otherwise disappear in the wake of modern consumer trends... unless we make a concerted effort to support it. Heartfelt thanks to all our Tea Club members for your support in our efforts to create a demand for Taiwan's tea tradition that we have inadvertently grown to love.
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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!