Eco-Farmed Specialty Roast Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
This is the plot of Four Seasons Spring tea that produced batch 60 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club. Our friend Mr. Xie, who is a pioneer in natural farming methods, leased this farm four years ago. Initially, he just let the tea trees be for over a year. Then he gradually began pruning and harvesting minimal crops. He uses no fertilizers, pest control, or irrigation. The trees are healthier now than when he took over the farm four years ago.
Four Seasons Spring is a cultivar that has become increasingly popular at lower elevations and for natural farming. It was discovered and propagated by a farmer about 30 years ago, when he noticed that one tree in his tea garden was significantly more prolific in its leaf growth. So he began to clone this plant, and it rapidly spread in the industry here. It is not only prolific, but is also more hardy and able to flourish with natural farming methods.
This plot of tea is situated behind a temple and is surrounded by forest and a retired betelnut farm which offers some shade as well as obstructing any overspray from nearby conventional farms. The flat terrain is conducive to machine harvesting when the crop is sufficiently abundant, which is a needed cost effective method to compensate for the much lower yield than commercial farming. At this time of the year, the leaves will not grow much more than the new growth seen above, and will be harvested by hand as immature leaf, and processed as "Dong Pian" — a name given to late winter produce.
This batch of tea was harvested last spring, and processed as a medium oxidized Oolong. The stems were then removed in preparation for extensive roasting. Mr. Xie proceeded to roast these leaves four times in total. The first roasting was done in the standard convection type oven to remove all remaining moisture from the leaves. The following 3 roastings were done in an oven designed for roasting coffee beans! This is truly an anomaly to our knowledge of the tea roasting practices here in Taiwan! As is shown in the photo below, this oven has ceramic coated heating elements in the front (behind the metal bracket) and back, with a rotisserie design made of five cylinders that rotate on their own while the rotisserie slowly rotates the whole "wheel". This is why this batch of tea earned the name "specialty roast"!
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We have become close friends, and this is a unique connection in our 25 years of involvement with tea producers in the local Taiwan tea industry. This farm is a rare resource, given its environment and micro-climate. The owners have faced many challenges and only in the last few years have developed their organic farming to a stable situation. Now, with some support and guidance, we believe they will soon be producing some of the best organic tea in Taiwan!