Eco-Cha Tea Club: Gold Medal Award Dong Ding Jin Xuan Oolong Tea
Traditional Oolong Tea Competition In Taiwan
The photo above was taken a little over two years ago when this husband and wife team won first place in a winter 2015 competition. This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was entered into the winter 2017 Nantou County Tea Trade Association's Dong Ding Jin Xuan Tea Competition, and received the Gold Medal Award. This award ranks within the top 5% of all entries. This competition has been in existence for almost 25 years. It began with the development of Jin Xuan tea production in the early 1990's. Below is an original package of award winning tea from the very first time this competition was held in 1994.
Jin Xuan Oolong: Taiwan's Most Popular Hybrid Cultivar
Jin Xuan is a hybrid cultivar produced by the government subsidized Tea Research Extension Station (TRES) in Taiwan and is registered as Tai Cha #12 (台茶12號). It was designed to possess a stronger immunity to naturally occurring "pests" in the regional climate of Taiwan while producing a somewhat larger leaf that increases yield. It is known for its buttery or milk flavor qualities and has a milder astringency and smoother texture.
We are particularly fond of this competition because the standard of the flavor profile by which these tea entries are judged resembles a traditionally made Dong Ding Oolong tea. In order to achieve this character, the leaves undergo medium oxidation (30-40%), and are then roasted repeatedly to produce a hearty, robust character of tea. This level of oxidation and roasting is closer to a pre-modern processing method that involves heavily curing the tea leaves to stabilize their consistency and have a longer shelf life. In fact, this type of tea is often considered to increase in quality with age.
Acknowledging that the labor intensive traditional methods that require knowledge and skill are being promoted by this association is encouraging. In our perception, Dong Ding Oolong tea is the most prominent representative of a traditional locally produced specialty tea in Taiwan. And this association has preserved and promoted this local culture by integrating this modern hybrid tea plant with traditionally developed tea making skills.
Receiving First Place Prize in the Dong Ding Tsui Yu Oolong winter 2015 competition
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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.