Eco-Cha Tea Club: Charcoal Roasted High Altitude Oolong Tea
This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club is from the fall harvest of a tea farm above 2000m elevation, on the Hehuan Mountain range. The place name Cui Feng is renowned for its High Mountain Oolong Tea, which is normally processed as a lightly oxidized unroasted tea. The photos above and below are scenic shots of the Cui Feng tea growing region, but not the actual farm from which our batch of tea was harvested.
It is with great sadness and sense of loss that we must convey that our friend and mentor in tea Mr. Zhuang recently passed away, shortly after we reserved this batch of tea with him. So we are unable to provide the usual specific footage of the source of each monthly batch of tea that we share with the Eco-Cha Tea Club.
Mr. Zhuang told us that he had been cooperating with the farm that this month's batch of tea was harvested from last fall for many years. He reserved this day's harvest to be significantly oxidized, in preparation to be charcoal roasted. He also told us over a year ago that he was just about done with his many years of charcoal roasting tea —due to the extensive time and attention it demands.
In contrast to roasting tea in the modern ovens that are widely used, charcoal roasting must be attended to continuously, whereas ovens can be left alone for hours at a time. He said he was just too busy with his wholesale business to commit days-on-end to charcoal roasting. Little did we know at the time that indeed, this batch of tea we share this month is the final batch of Mr. Zhuang's charcoal roasting career.
We feel that the constitution of these tea leaves that were grown at high altitude with optimal farming methods, and crafted by some of the top tea producers in the industry, is what makes this batch so special. We cherish both the knowledge and the quality tea that Mr. Zhuang generously shared with us. We will miss him dearly.
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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.