Eco-Cha Tea Club: Light Roast Phoenix Village Oolong Tea
Phoenix Village and Yonglong Village: The heart of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea
The aerial shot above shows Phoenix Mountain shrouded in clouds in the background. The higher cluster of houses, surrounded by small family-owned tea gardens, is Phoenix Village, in Lugu /Township. This, and the neighboring Yonglong village, are home to the highest population of traditional Oolong Tea makers in Taiwan. Grandpa Liu, now 83, is an elder among these artisans, and our most revered representative of this local tradition.
Grandpa Liu, a locally respected elder artisan of traditionally made Oolong Tea
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.
Tasting three different batches of locally grown and traditionally made Oolong Tea
Everything about how this locally grown tea was harvested and processed was well done in the perception of Eco-Cha's sourcing director, Andy. And when he told Mr. Liu that he liked the middle one of the three teas the most, Grandpa Liu shared that he supervised the solar withering stage of its processing. This initial stage of Oolong Tea making sets the course for all the subsequent steps. The sufficiently mature leaves were properly "coaxed along" in their withering and oxidation process, and the care and decisive measures taken throughout the curing process resulted in an exceptional batch of Light Roast Oolong Tea from the heart of Oolong Country in Taiwan. Grandpa Liu also roasted this batch himself after procuring a portion of the batch from his neighbor and old friend.
Eco-Cha's Andy, Mr. Liu's grandson, Mr. Liu, and Fulvio from Italy
Grandpa Liu's son is one of Andy's closest friends in Taiwan. Eco-Cha sourced our Dong Ding Oolong Tea from him for years, until he fell terminally ill and his family farm was repurposed. Andy continues to keep in touch with the family, and this was one of the more fortuitous visits in terms of discovering an exceptional batch of tea that was readily shared with us.
Eco-Cha's Andy with his friend and tea professional Liu Bo Jia, January 2015
So we would like to dedicate this batch of tea to our dear friend who was the heir of his father's renowned skills as a traditional artisan of Dong Ding Ooolong Tea. Our friendship with Liu Bo Jia continues to provide us with fine batches of tea and unique connections within his local community. His father - Grandpa Liu, is and always will be our favorite, however.
Aerial view of Yonglong and Phoenix Village in Lugu Township, Taiwan
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.