Alishan Late Spring Oolong Tea Tasting Notes | Eco-Cha Tea Club
This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was harvested in mid-May. Spring rains finally arrived at the very end of April, and there were a few days of clear weather in the middle of May, allowing for this late spring harvest in the rural community of Taihe, in Meishan Township. This is the northernmost corner of the Alishan tea growing region.
The dried leaves above show slight scattered yellow coloration, which can indicate two factors. One is more mature leaves, and the other is bug bitten leaves. In this case, it's probably both, but neither factors are overly evidient!
In our experience, more mature leaves are a plus, because they have a more substantial constitution, which results in a heartier brew. Tea makers are more challenged in processing more mature leaves, because they are basically a bit more stubborn in the dehydration and oxidation process. However, the appearance of the brewed leaves shows uniformity and smooth gradient of coloration in the oxidation, indicating that they were skillfully processed. The leaves are thick, yet supple, just how we like them!
The complex aroma of the brewed tea leaves has subtle hints of a bug bitten character, but not very obvious. The sufficient oxidation offers a fresh scone scent, with a touch of honey, making us think that there is some influence from the Green Leafhopper. It is very likely that this note is subtle due to the fact that it had rained very near harvest time, which is said to dilute or dissipate the chemical compounds that are responsible for this character of flavor. The texture is smooth and balanced, with delicate complexity. The flavor profile is light, but balanced and refreshing.
Every once in a while, a batch of High Mountain Oolong will have just the right combination of factors, including seasonal weather, Green Leafhoppers, and proficiency and luck in the curing of the leaves that result in a character of tea like this one. We love finding this type of tea, because its flavor cannot not be fully intended. It's special character is subtle, and not something that is easily pinpointed. This is where our fulfillment comes from in offering this month's edition of the Eco-Cha Tea Club.
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Eco-Cha Tea Club's batch #48 is Alishan High Mountain Black Tea. It has a very balanced, integrated flavor profile, and offers subtle notes of a Qing Xin Oolong. The brewed leaves still have a greenish hue, even though the stems are quite reddish, indicating nearly full oxidation. It is an interesting hybrid of tea types, but definitely acts more like a Black Tea made from the small leaf type Qing Xin strain.
This very small fall harvest of naturally cultivated Oolong leaves was painstakingly processed by a father and son team who are top representatives of their local tea industry. The most inspiring fact is that the son is wholeheartedly inheriting his family's tradition, and this small batch of tea is testimony to that.
The name "Hong Shui (Red Water) Oolong" has been a buzzword in Oolong circles in recent years. But the tea makers who have inherited their local tradition say that this is simply a new name for tea processed like their grandfathers taught them. It used to just be called "Oolong Tea"!