The picture above was taken in April 2016, a month or so after these Jin Xuan Oolong saplings were planted by our friend and respected organic tea farmer, Mr. Xie. And in December 2017, the new seasonal growth on these plants was harvested for the very first time, yielding a minimal crop of less than 30 kg of tea. The Eco-Cha Tea Club has the privilege of partaking in this premier batch of organically grown Jin Xuan Oolong Tea.
The above photo of Mr. Xie was taken the same day as the first one showing the newly planted tea. We were prompted to dig up these photos after Mr. Xie casually mentioned that he had harvested the first crop, since we clearly remember saying on the day these photos were taken, "Let us know when these plants are ready for their first harvest". Given his humble nature, it was only when we asked that he mentioned that he had just harvested the first crop. Luckily, our timing was right, and he readily shared this freshly made, very minimal batch.
The above photo was taken when the tea plants were nearing one year old. We accompanied Mr. Xie as he harvested a small crop of organically grown ginger, which he uses to make Ginger Black Tea. It's these occasions of visiting farmers and standing on the soil that they cultivate while asking too many questions and learning about their work that really compels us to share their produce. Organic tea farming and tea making is a noble trade, and representing this new generation of local culture is the foundation of the Eco-Cha Tea Club.
Mr. Xie made a life-changing decision 20 years ago by committing to transition the tradition he inherited from his father and grandfather before him to organic tea farming. He did this solely by his own conviction that it was the right thing to do. He came close to failing at first, but his farm survived, and through many years of pioneering experimentation, he succeeded. He is now a leading representative of organic tea farming in his community, and has formed a co-op of neighboring farms to develop his business. In recent years, a younger generation of local farmers are following his example. This is the latest chapter on the local scene that we find truly exciting.
Above is Mr. Xie's plot of Four Seasons Spring, located adjacent to the new crop of Jin Xuan plants that we are sharing the first harvest from this month. This plot of Four Seasons Spring is living testimony to Mr. Xie's success. He not only is producing fine crops of tea, he is an extraordinary artisan of Oolong Tea who is a model in his community and beyond. Can you tell that we are excited to share this premier crop from his latest farming effort? Oh, and also — it tastes really good!
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Red Oolong offers a smooth, balanced, mildly sweet, rich but not quite bold flavor profile, with elements of fruit compote, pumpkin pie, and a hint of dried flowers. This ultra-friendly character, combined with the fact that almost all Red Oolong is cultivated naturally on the southeast coast of Taiwan, facing the wide open Pacific, which reminds a North American of Washington State or British Columbia, is no wonder why it is rapidly gaining popularity on the international market. Once again, Taiwan leads the way in Oolong Tea innovation!
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.