Above is a photo of the cured leaves from a single, very small hand-picked harvest of organic Wuyi Hongshui Oolong. The images that follow provide a direct view of the land and growing methods this farmer practices. This post also provides an update on the plot of tea that produced our June batch of organic Wuyi Black Tea.
The images above portray the epitome of natural tea farming, which embodies so much more than the standard organic certification. This farmer has committed to allowing a fully natural environment on his farm, where he has ceased using any machines on this land by only using a handtruck to flatten the grasses that would otherwise overtake the young tea plants. He also removes by hand the grasses that grow in and among the rows of tea trees. Eventually, the young tea trees will fill out and reduce the space between both the individual plants and the rows. But this farmer purposely planted his tea trees further apart to allow for eco-diversity on the land.
We were very excited to share the first substantial crop from this newly planted organic plot of heirloom Wuyi Tea in our June batch. That first harvest from this plot was processed as a Black Tea. The farmer saw our appreciation for that unique batch of tea, and was inspired to respond to our enthusiasm and encouragement by processing the second harvest as a traditional Hongshui Oolong — a tea type that had virtually disappeared in the wake of large scale promotion of High Mountain Tea, but has recently gained popularity among local tea connoisseurs. This is living proof that local tea growers in this region are reclaiming their heritage for producing specialty teas. Furthermore, this farmer is an anomaly in his farming practice. Not only is he pioneering farming methods that we have never seen or heard of in Taiwan before. He is also producing some unique and superior batches of tea.
We are proud to be able to share the first two harvests of Wuyi Oolong from new plants grown by truly organic and natural methods and processed by hand to produce a unique and quality tea. Normally, this farmer does not harvest leaves from his tea plants during summer, but rather allows them to rejuvenate by going through the peak season of their vegetative phase. In this case however, he decided that a minimal harvest of already matured leaves would "boost" the production of new growth on the plants. So his mother, wife, and sister selectively picked the leaves from these plants, resulting in a harvest that produced a mere 10 kg of tea leaves, which is just enough to share with our tea club members!
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.