This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a heavily oxidized, unroasted Oolong Tea harvested from the lower lying slopes of the Shanlinxi region. The character of this tea is an intriguing combination of Oolong and Black Tea. The aromatic qualities offer a rich sweet profile like fruit compote. On the palate, it has a broad range of flavor, with a base of deep musky notes into a complex fruity body with subtle hints of citrus in the finish. The aftertaste lingers with a dry headiness comprised of interesting sweet/tart and astringent tones.
The artisan is of the conviction that this type of tea can only be produced in the summer, when it is hot enough to provide the proper wilting of the leaves that allows for sufficient oxidation. The leaves are also picked when they are slightly more mature, allowing them to withstand the extensive wilting and tumbling that results in an even gradation of oxidation. In a word, this type of tea is all about proper oxidation of the leaves!
The luminescent and transparent qualities in the brewed tea are testimony to the expertise employed in the processing of the leaves. This purity and consistency of color in the tea show that the leaves have been cured in a way that allows the chemical compounds to be integrated into a balanced constitution, and also are able to be readily extracted when brewed. This is the low-tech "science" that goes in to traditional tea making. Like so many artisan crafts, it is by definition a science, just a different kind of empiricism.
Notice the even gradation in the coloration of the leaves from the periphery toward the center. This even reddish hue is the visual representation of a properly implemented heavy oxidation of the tea leaves. We can see above that the color of the brewed tea is closer to Black Tea, but we also can see that there is a significant amount of green coloration in the leaves. This is the magic of Oolong Tea making. It is magic in the sense that there are endless variations in the results of this extensive processing of the leaves that is done with finesse. It stands in stark contrast to standardized processing methods, and hence, by definition is an artisan craft.
We look forward to hearing about your experience of this singular batch of tea that was made to order, and that our friend had personal access to, through his friend who grew the leaves. That's how it works on the local scene — friends of friends... and we continue to feel a new sense of privilege with each batch like this one that we find and share with our Eco-Cha Tea Club Members. So please share your experience with us, so we can all learn from each other. Post your comments, tasting photos and videos here for all of us to appreciate!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
The appearance of the brewed tea has gained substance, and become a deeper yellowish gold in comparison to the thinner, lighter unroasted brew. This coincides with the flavor profile in that the roasted version is heartier, with a more balanced character. The aroma coming off the leaves from the initial rinse is reminiscent of buttered carrots or yams. After the first brew, the aroma is more like grilled corn, cooling off into freshly baked scones. The second pour brought on stronger roasted vegetable notes, but again cooling off into a pastry aroma.
Red Oolong offers a smooth, balanced, mildly sweet, rich but not quite bold flavor profile, with elements of fruit compote, pumpkin pie, and a hint of dried flowers. This ultra-friendly character, combined with the fact that almost all Red Oolong is cultivated naturally on the southeast coast of Taiwan, facing the wide open Pacific, where the sky reminds a North American of the northern west coast, is no wonder why it is rapidly gaining popularity on the international market. Once again, Taiwan leads the way in Oolong Tea innovation!