Eco-Cha Tea Club: Honey Fragrance Oolong Tea
This batch of tea was harvested from the family-run farm where we regularly source our Dong Ding Oolong. They noticed the presence of the Green Leafhopper on this plot, and harvested it independently from other plots so they could specially process these leaves by letting them oxidize more than normal. The leaves were then only roasted once at low temperature to completely cure them. Here is the single, small batch harvest undergoing solar withering in the courtyard of their traditional home factory, followed by indoor withering on bamboo trays below.
Bug-bitten leaves are tricky to process, and have relatively unpredictable results, so the artisan must rely on experience and understanding of the unique condition of the leaves when harvested to achieve the desired result. Our friend decided that heavier oxidation of the leaves would produce a more balanced composition, which proved correct. He then decided not to risk losing the elusive "honey fragrance" by roasting the leaves to the degree of a more standard Concubine or Dong Ding Oolong. The final result is a batch of tea that is similar to a Hongshui Oolong, but with a distinct "honey fragrance" character that puts it in a flavor profile of its own. We were delighted and surprised to be offered a rare batch of bug-bitten tea from a winter harvest at mid-elevation, as it is a very unusual occurrence. And this natural phenomenon combined with the leaves being processed with traditional expertise has produced a unique batch that is an exciting start of our second year of the Eco-Cha Tea Club.
The bright green speck on a leaf in the slightly blurred phone shot above is what makes Honey Fragrance Oolong tea — The Green Leafhopper. A tiny flying insect appears in tea gardens when the combined timing of weather and new leaf growth is just right. It really is a bit of nature's magic at work along with traditional knowledge that provides us with a unique batch of tea like this one. We look forward to hearing about your experience of this winter harvest of Honey Fragrance Oolong!
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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.