The leaves shown above were harvested in the Shanlinxi High Mountain Tea growing region last spring, and have undergone 8 separate roasting sessions. The first three preliminary roastings were done in a conventional oven in preparation for the traditional method of using charcoal made from the Longan fruitwood.
Longan fruit (which translates literally as "Dragon Eye") is a small fruit with a leathery peel, and is related to the Lychee. It is often dried and used to make fruit tea, and is known for its warming, sweet character and relaxing effect. This dried Longan fruit flavor is detectable in both the aroma wafting from the brewed leaves, and the touch of syrupy sweetness on the palate. This sweet note is a bit like molasses in that it is balanced with a prominent roasted character and the innate mildly bitter aspect of Oolong tea.
The overall composition of this tea is a very rich, smooth, hearty character that is achieved by extensive roasting, which concentrates the the inherent qualities in the tea leaves and infuses them with charcoal roastiness. The roasting method involves insulating the heat from the live coals at the base of the roaster with a thick layer of charcoal ash. The tea leaves are spread on a screen tray above the layer of ash and are very slowly roasted at low temperature (90°-120°C) with no exposure to smoke whatsoever. This batch has undergone 5 charcoal roasting sessions in addition to the 3 preliminary roastings, for a total of about 50 hours!
Perhaps the most evident means of determining that these leaves were expertly roasted is in the assessment of the brewed leaves. They are still very supple and even maintain a considerable amount of their original green hue in their appearance. When this original character is preserved through such an extensive roasting process, the optimal results in quality are achieved. Due to the concentrated effect of roasting, less leaves should be used when brewing. About 20-25% less than the normal amount is recommended. So if you normally use 9-10g for a 150ml pot, only 7g of these charcoal roasted leaves are needed, and these leaves have extraordinary brewing endurance as well!
As always, we love to hear about your experience of our unique batches of tea that we only share with our Eco-Cha Tea Club members. Please post your comments, photos and tasting videos here for all of us to see. This club is not only about getting to enjoy tea that is not found on the market. It is also about sharing our experiences so that we can all learn and expand our knowledge of this fascinating world of tea!
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.