Eco-Cha Tea Club: Light Roast Concubine Oolong Tasting Notes
It's an especially exciting occasion when we are able to offer a batch of bug bitten tea with the Eco-Cha Tea Club. Namely because each batch of tea that has been affected by the Green Leafhopper is by definition unique. The extent to which this magical equation of the tea plants reacting to the bugs feeding on their young leaves results in endless variations from leaf to leaf. In other words, each leaf is affected to a different degree, and by the time it is harvested and processed, it is impossible to know how it will actually taste. And the truth is, not all bug bitten batches of tea end up tasting delicious, but this one did!
Concubine Tea is a name that was coined by the Lugu Farmers' Association, following a major earthquake in 1999 in central Taiwan. Many farms were left untended for months afterwards, which resulted in a lot of "bug bitten tea" by the time tea farmers were able to harvest again. It's a name used to describe tea that is made from leaves that were affected by the Green Leafhopper , and processed in the fashion of Dong Ding Oolong Tea, but slightly less roasted. This month's batch of tea was only roasted once, and we just happened to taste it just after it came out of the oven for the first time, so we are calling it a light roast.
We were captivated by the flavor profile with the first sip when our mentor Lisa Lin brewed for us on an impromptu visit to her home. It's vibrant, fresh, complex, and also smooth and balanced. Its overall profile carries delicate floral aromatic notes, and a distinct honey-like flavor suspended in a thick, smooth composition. The most distinctive aspect of this batch is that it maintains a very fresh character while having no green vegetal or herbal qualities. It's an amazing balance of delicate floweriness and freshly baked scones. In sum, it's a proper tribute to the magic of bug bitten tea!
We feel that there is some authentic serendipity in the opportunity to share this month's batch of tea for a couple of reasons. First, we just happened to stop by after Lisa completed the initial roasting of the tea, and got to taste it, and ask if we could purchase it just as it is, without further roasting to bring it closer to the standard of Concubine Oolong. Secondly, Eco-Cha's Andy originally connected his mentor to this source of tea 3 years ago, and Lisa has been buying bug bitten tea from them ever since. She then proceeds to roast the leaves with a deep intuitive attention to their character that is batch specific. It's this mix of factors that we continue to find our inspiration from, not to mention that we can share it with our Tea Club members around the world!
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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.