Traditional Lugu Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Batch #52 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Traditional Lugu Oolong Tea from the most recent winter harvest in November 2019. This the second batch of tea Eco-Cha has sourced from this farmer. We first shared the winter 2018 harvest with the Eco-Cha Tea Club last June. This independent tea farmer is a prime example of local artisan tea culture.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, Mr. Zhang decided to embody his local tradition by clearing his uncle's yet-to-be farmed land to cultivate his own plot of tea higher up and deeper into the mountains.
Since this time, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu Township hosts the highest concentration of both traditional Oolong and High Mountain Tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.
Above is a photo of Grandpa Zhang when we recently visited to pick up this month's batch of tea. He was excited about our visit, and especially prepared a healthy winter snack of sweet soup with taro he grew himself. Grandpa is true country folk, and we were his honored guests!
The recent winter yield was very minimal all over Taiwan, but especially from farms like this one that rely solely on rain for irrigation. After heavy rains at the very beginning of the growing season in September, it stopped raining altogether — for two months! Mr. Zhang's winter yield was about a third of the normal amount. The only good thing about this is that the tea leaves that did grow made some very good tea! We got a sample in January, after he roasted the leaves 3 times over almost two months, and immediately called him up to reserve just enough to share with the Tea Club.
Above is the view from the farm, overlooking Xiaobantian in the foreground and downtown Lugu beyond. This farm is at the foot of Dalunshan (Big Wheel Mountain), which is the beginning of the Shanlinxi High Mountain Tea growing region. Mr. Zhang employs relatively sustainable farm management, with minimal fertilization and pest control. This allows his tea trees to be more self-sufficient, even though it compromises the volume of his seasonal yield. He is committed to keeping it real by spending less on farm products, and accepting the lower volume of more natural produce. He believes that this has resulted in his trees producing leaves with more substance, which make better quality tea.
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We can see in the photo of the dried leaves above that they were hand-plucked while still very young and tender. This is evident not only by the size of the leaves, but also in the protective fur that is still on the whitish colored leaf buds. It is this stage of leaf growth, along with the heirloom cultivar of tea tree that give Bi Luo Chun its distinctive character among Green Teas — especially when it is from the first flush of spring tea buds!