Eco-Cha Tea Club: Dragon Boat Green Tea
Last month we celebrated the third biggest holiday of the year in traditional Chinese culture — Dragon Boat Festival, or "Duan Wu Jie" in Mandarin. Just days after the holiday weekend, we stopped by the home of a tea farmer friend in our favorite village in tea country - Yong Long, in Lugu Township. This is how we happened upon this month's batch of Dragon Boat Green Tea.
In the image above, you can see a section of this village on the right, with a bit of Qilin Lake beside it, and on the plains below you can see Taiwan's longest river — Zuoshuixi, reflecting the setting sun. We share this view with you because the mountain that we took the picture from just a couple days ago is where this month's batch of tea was sourced.
This batch of Dragon Boat Green Tea was harvested on the fifth day of fifth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It is believed that the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on this day are when the Yang Energy is strongest in the Lunar Year. Traditional custom holds this to be the ideal time to collect mountain spring water to be used for its beneficial effects in removing "dampness" from the body, as interpreted by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our friend Mr. Chen innovated upon this traditional concept to harvest tea leaves at this time, as it is considered an overall atmospheric phenomenon. He determined it most appropriate to process these "yang energy tea leaves" as green tea to capture the innate "chi", with the least amount of altering their natural state. Mr. Chen committed to procuring the entire harvest of this season's Jin Xuan Oolong tea leaves if the farmer agreed to not administer any pesticides during the growing season that followed spring harvest. So this batch of tea leaves were produced without the use of any chemical farm products, and processed in the most minimal way to maintain their innate constitution.
The shot above is a home in the middle of a tea garden that we have coveted for 20 years now, and happens to be on the same mountain slope where this batch of tea was harvested.
Above is the view in the opposite direction, across the single lane mountain access road, with the lower shoulder of Phoenix Mountain in the distance. These gardens are adjacent to the National Taiwan University Tea Research Center. Many of these farms have become transitional organic in their farm practice as a result of the university's success in this respect.
The image above was shot from the top of the NTU research garden, looking northeast toward the ridge below Phoenix Mountain. This is also where the first sunset shot above was taken from, looking west.
This is a snapshot of the road that winds around the tea farms above as we ascend into a bamboo forest in the foothills of Phoenix Mountain.
And finally, we offer your a panoramic shot of the area, looking west, just before the sun sinks into the remaining clouds from the thunderstorm that broke just a couple hours prior to our arrival at the place that we've visited and cherished for over two decades running. We hope that you can feel the energy of this locale, and the premium Dragon Boat Green Tea that it has offered us this year!
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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.