Eco-Cha Tea Club: Fo Shou Oolong Tea Tasting Notes
Fo Shou, or Buddha Hand, is a traditionally made Oolong Tea with deep roots — literally. This name refers to a large-leaf strain of tea, putting in the same category as Wild Tea, Assam, and Red Jade #18. Large-leaf strains are a category that is distinctly separate from the majority of small-leaf tea strains cultivated for Chinese Oolong, Green and Black Tea production.
This batch of Fo Shou leaves, harvested last spring, were processed using Taiwanese traditional tea making methods — basically in the fashion of Muzha Tie Guan Yin Oolong. The large-leaf type leaves need special treatment to coax them into the extensive stages of oxidation that are prerequisite to producing this character of tea. The leaves are then tightly rolled, like most Taiwanese Oolongs. This is followed by repeated roastings to both mellow and enhance the flavor profile. After completion, this batch of tea leaves was allowed to settle for about six months, non- vacuum sealed. All of this spells proper curing of a traditional Oolong Tea.
The character of this tea is rich, and like the soil it grows from — it has a mineral base, with subtle smoky, sweet, fruity, and even floral notes that linger for a long pleasant while. The recommended ratio of leaves to water is less than the norm, around 1:22. So about 7g/150ml tea:water when brewing Gong Fu style, perhaps 5g/300ml for Grandpa style.
This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the Eco-Cha Tea Club, and this is the very first batch of Fo Shou that we've shared. We feel that it couldn't get much more appropriate, in the sense that our Tea Club is about sourcing and sharing batches of tea that represent Taiwan's Tea Culture at the micro, singular batch level. In other words, this is a batch of tea that we ourselves have never had the pleasure of sharing, and this in itself is cause for elation!
We also have thoroughly enjoyed this tea every time we've brewed it in recent weeks, from Gong Fu style to French press, to Grandpa style. It's a solid brew with a character that appeals to the tea geek contingent. In other words, it's a distinctive tea with substance and complexity. It may take some attention to get the optimal brew, but even when you miss the mark, it's still very satisfying in the highland single malt whisky genre of quality.
Please share your experience of this batch of tea, and of the Eco-Cha Tea Club overall. On this occasion of our 3rd Anniversary, we encourage you to post a comment about your experience. Thanks for being with us, and keep on brewing the good leaf!
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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.