Eco-Cha Tea Club: Longan Charcoal Roasted Wuyi Oolong Tea
The above photo was taken just after the recent spring harvest of this plot of naturally cultivated heirloom Wuyi Oolong Tea. So what we see here is the contrast in coloration of the light green new growth leaves, juxtaposed against the older leaves on the perennial tea tree. The Wuyi tea leaves are noticeably narrower than other tea strains, and this is a significant reason why Wuyi has become a rare breed in contemporary Taiwanese tea production. The perennial yield is significantly less in volume than other tea types, particularly modern hybrid strains. This is the same plot of tea that we shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club in March 2016, which was the first real harvest from this young plot of tea.
The plants are healthy and abundant after a slow start, taking about twice as long to mature in comparison to conventional farming methods. This plot of tea has been cultivated with zero chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and each harvest has undergone standardized testing for trace chemical residue with ND results, meaning no trace residues were detected. This, along with another nearby plot of organically grown Wuyi Oolong that we also shared harvests from last year represent a renaissance of a tea type that was cultivated in this area up until about 30 years ago. In short, a couple of courageous tea farmers are reclaiming their roots and representing their heritage after a generation of modern development in the tea industry.
The first batch of tea that we shared from this plot of Wuyi tea plants was left unroasted, in the fashion of Taiwan's High Mountain Tea. This one is on the other end of the roasting scale, having undergone 6 roasting sessions in total. After being roasted in conventional modern ovens twice, this batch was handed over to a professional charcoal tea roaster. This is all the guy does: roast tea in woven bamboo baskets, using charcoal made from the Longan fruit tree. He does not let anyone into his workshop, and keeps his traditional secrets to himself, which he has been developing for several decades. He also roasted this year's January batch that we shared with our Eco-Cha Tea Club members, which our members have raved about.
So here we have it, a naturally cultivated plot of heirloom Wuyi tea plants that our friend combined last spring and winter harvests to roast in a traditional fashion to represent his cultural roots in a way that is perhaps unprecedented in his already very successful career as a tea craftsman and merchant. This is why we feel obligated to share this small, singular batch of tea with our tea club members. We are confident that you will appreciate it!
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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.