Eco-Farmed GABA Oolong Tea | Summer 2021
Our source of Eco-Farmed GABA Oolong Tea has been the most inspiring representative of natural tea farming we've met here in Taiwan. He inherited his family tea farm and factory 20 years ago, and has persevered in creating a sustainable production of organic tea by developing natural tea farming methods on his own.
This photo was taken last Sunday, just days before the new growth was harvested. We can see how much weed growth exists between and among the tea trees. In recent years, this farmer has stopped cutting the weeds, but instead he pushes them down with a hand truck. This allows the ecosystem to remain in tact, and to develop into a more dense ecology and stable micro-climate — retaining moisture and protecting the roots from the hot sun. This farmer's commitment to emulating role models such as Masanobu Fukuoka has made him a pioneer in the local organic tea industry.
In the last decade, this tea maker has specialized in GABA Oolong, and has honed his production skills to the point of putting his tea in high demand. Beyond the natural farming methods that he employs, the most prominent method of sustainable tea production is harvesting by machine rather than by hand. While harvesting by machine is generally considered a compromise of quality, it unquestionably has significant assets. Being able to sell the produce at a more economical price due to machine harvesting is a substantial ingredient to sustainable farm and business practice. The invention of destemming machines in recent years has provided another labor-reducing, cost effective means to producing quality tea.
We can see in the photo above that the final product is very uniform, and almost all prime leaf material — much cleaner than any hand-picked harvest that has not undergone destemming. So these are the modern innovations that make organic tea production even possible in terms of providing high quality at a reasonable cost. These factors help to balance out the huge difference in the volume of production in comparison with commercially run farms. Organic tea farms typically produce a small fraction of a commercial farm. So the minimal produce, along with being more susceptible to seasonal growing conditions are the major challenges that natural farming faces.
Machine harvesting requires only 2 or 3 people, so no scheduling and hiring teams of 10, 20, 50 or more pickers is required. This not only reduces production costs greatly, it also allows for ideal timing of the harvest to happen. The efficiency of machine harvesting offers the ability of an entire day's crop to be harvested at the ideal time of day, and is also flexible — depending on the weather. Machine harvesting also does two jobs at once, in that harvesting the leaves with a hedge trimmer also accomplishes the same result as a light pruning! This pruning effect allows for the subsequent crop of new growth to grow more uniformly on the surface of the row of tea trees. This dual effect is another sustainable asset in the production process.
The name GABA is an abbreviation of the chemical compound gamma-aminobutyric acid. This compound is naturally occurring neurotransmitter in humans. This substance was originally researched in Japan to be used as a health supplement that promotes well-being in significant and various ways related to heart function and stress relief. After discovering a method of processing tea leaves that converts the glutamic acid into GABA, this became a popular health supplement in Japan, and then around the world.
As the demand for GABA Oolong Tea grew, it drew the attention of Taiwan's tea producers, and particularly the organic tea producers. Taiwanese Oolong Tea artisans were able to improve the quality of this tea type immensely. GABA tea was transformed from being strictly a health supplement to being a specialty tea type with unique attributes that promote well-being.
The photo above was taken five years ago, on the same plot of tea as the first photo above. Here Andy was just getting to know this anomaly of a tea producer who has since become a good friend. This is the heart of it. The connections that are made as a result of a shared passion for tea along with our dedication to represent Taiwan's world class tea and tea culture are why we are here today!
Watch the tasting video below to learn all about our current batch of Eco-Farmed GABA Oolong Tea!
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Batch 74 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Eco-Farmed GABA Oolong Tea. We coined the term Eco-Farmed to represent tea that is sourced from a certified organic tea farm, without representing the certification itself. This farm is not only certified organic, but it is managed with the most natural farming methods we've seen in the local tea industry here in Taiwan. He has pioneered these farming methods, and after 20 years of challenging research, is now successfully managing several plots of tea and producing specialty types of organic tea.