Eco-Cha Tea Club: Award Winning Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea
These images are roadside snapshots from our spring tea run last year. Above is a view on the way into the northern side of Alishan Tea Country. The photos below are images of harvest in Zhangshuhu, the highest village in the valley on the northern side of the ridge leading to Alishan Mountain. This month's Eco-Cha Tea Club batch of tea is from last winter's harvest in Zhangshuhu.
Our friend, who is the most successful player we know in Taiwan's tea competitions, sourced 4 batches of tea from this village to be prepared for the winter 2016 competition in the Meishan Farmers' Association. He achieved awards in the Top Place ( top 2%), Gold Medal (top 10%), and Silver Medal (top 16%) categories. This month's Eco-Cha Tea Club batch is a combination of the remainder of tea leaves that achieved Gold and Silver Medal awards in a competition of more than 1000 entries.
Eco-Cha has been procuring tea from Zhangshuhu for almost 20 years. In fact it was a motorcycle ride to visit our tea farmer friend who has the second highest elevation tea farm in the valley that planted the seeds of our partnership over 10 years ago. Humbly speaking, this month's batch of tea that a leading Taiwanese tea professional won awards with is perhaps the finest we've tasted from this village. The Meishan Farmer's Association is the largest High Mountain Tea competition in Taiwan. It's current standard is based on a minimal roasting to stabilize the constitution in the leaves and mellow the character ever-so-slightly, to give it a more substantial character and preserve its freshness.
We are pleased with the recent evolution of the competition standard from this association, as it offers a more full-bodied, smooth, and substantial brew than the commercial standard of a greener, minimally oxidized, and unroasted leaf. In fact, this standard of a flavor profile warrants a more quality leaf along with more labor, care and skill in the making. We are proud to share it with our Tea Club members. We encourage you to share your experience of this batch with all of us in the Eco-Cha Tea Club by posting your comments, photos, and videos here.
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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.