Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club

October 10, 2020 1 Comment

On the way to Yushan National Park

Batch 59 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is from a certified organic farm located on the periphery of Yushan National Park. Yushan, or Jade Mountain is not only the highest peak in Taiwan, but also in all of east Asia. This farm is the closest developed land to the park, in a remote mountain valley. 

The photo above is the first vista of the Yushan National Park region when traveling south on Highway 21. This road runs through three of Taiwan's most popular mountain scenic regions: Sun Moon Lake, Yushan Natioinal Park, and Alishan National Park (where 21 ends, and becomes Highway 18). Beginning with this bridge, this stretch of road offers some of the most impressive mountain scenery on the island. And about 15km south of this point is where we turn left and head east to Dongpu and Shalixian, where this month's batch of tea comes from.

Yushan High Mountain Oolong Tea Organic Tea Harvest

This batch of tea was harvested on September 3, and we slept out at the farm to be there when the team of pickers arrived at 6:30 a.m. and capture the event. We are so impressed with this couple's work and the story of how they came to transition their inherited family farm to being certified organic that we are making a documentary video of it. A husband and wife manage this farm that has been fully certified for 3 years now. They began transitioning to organic ten years ago when they decided to stop using chemical farm products. More about that story in the documentary. Stay tuned!

Eco-Farmed Yushan High Mountain Oolong Tea Harvest

The tea trees were allowed to grow naturally following the spring harvest, with no further harvest or pruning through the summer months. Allowing substantial new growth nourishes the plants and strengthens their root base. Only the growing tips of the new branches were picked by hand, but leaf growth was slower, as the plants already had a new growth phase in the previous months. So these leaves were thicker, a bit tougher, and with considerable more substance than if it was new growth immediately following a harvest, or even more so — a pruning.

Eco-Farmed Yushan High Mountain Tea harvest

In the photo above, Hwy 21 can be seen in the background as it winds its way southward, and the main valley leading up to Jade Mountain is to the left of this photo. We can see how naturally these tea trees are allowed to grow. It's a wholly different farming method than conventional farming, and the produce from a farm like this is also next level. In our perception, based on continually visiting tea farms in Taiwan for over 20 years, this source is a rare and precious find. The combination of a pristine geographic location with an ideal micro-climate for tea production, and the natural farming methods are just not to be found. In a word, we love this farm, as well as its caretakers!

TASTING NOTES

This tea starts off with a warming spices/mild savory aroma, and brews a smooth, thick texture, with floral, honey, and tangy notes, and ends with a balanced, sweet/dry, lasting finish. Find out more here!

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1 Response

Ut Lee
Ut Lee

October 22, 2020

What a pleasant surprise!

Since I relocated to the US, I had not given much thought of continuing my tea hobby. Through online research(Google and Reddit), I came across eco-cha twice and decided to give this a shot. I signed up for the monthly subscription. #59 is in the package along with a tea pot and a bamboo board.

The teapot was good. I especially liked the fact that by its look and touch outside, the teapot didn’t get extra chemical treatment to make the shiny look that lots of makers would do. The seal of the pot was good. The water quickly stopped coming out without leaking when I blocked the top hole gently(don’t know what it’s called in English. Two kids to wrangle. Cut me some slack, would you!) The water flow overall looked good. There might be a smidgen of unevenness inside of the mouth part, because the water flow had a smidgen of spin(whirl) during the pour. Was it actually a design!? Or perhaps I’m getting so old that I start to shake without realizing that!?

The bamboo board (or plate) was designed well. I appreciated the hole very much. It was artistic, elegant, and functional!!! That hole was placed at the exact spot I would want to function the tea brew experience accordingly. (Really hard to explain this without a video. I’m a 80% right handed person. That position of the hole made perfect sense for how I made tea)

So, #59
The very first time: (I couldn’t replicate any tea experience. Every one was unique as its own)
The smell after opening the sealed bag almost made me cry(in a good way. I miss Taiwan). It was potent but delicate. I used some boiling water to clean the tea pot, I put the tea leaves into the pot (just enough to cover the very bottom), and I boiled the water again. I set the boiling water aside for 10 seconds before my first “rinse”. I added only enough water to cover half the pot. 30 seconds later, I poured that out. It was light (color and fragrant) but refreshing!
The real deal came.
1st steep, 50 seconds. Still waking the leaves up. The first steep didn’t go as strong as I thought. Oolong signature kicked in. The taste was still refreshing.
2nd steep, 50 seconds. Leaves were more stretched out. The Oolong signature was very potent. The oily smoothness started to kick in.
3rd steep, 50 seconds. My favorite of all. The Oolong signature was there, and the tea texture was the richest. For me, it was the best balance.
4th steep, 60 seconds. The Oolong signature started to fade. However, in both the smell and the taste, a flower kind of hint came up. Surprise!
5th steep, 65 seconds. I realized that I could have begun with more tea leaves. C’e la vie!

I was wondering why the tea leaves didn’t seem to stretch out as my usual tea from Taiwan. While preparing for my last steep (really!? I usually did 7 steeps. It had little to do with how much abuse the tea I drank could take. It had more to do with the feeling, “I’m not ready to let go yet”). Anyways, I started to take tea leaves out one by one, and I noticed that there were several really long stalks with several leaves attached. It answered my question about why the tea leaves didn’t look stretched out even after the first 2 steeps. Long stalks probably wouldn’t unfold much even after the hot water was added. And then, I recalled the name, eco-cha. I looked at eco-cha’s farming practices. I supposed the way of collecting tea leaves had a lot to do with how they grew the tea plants to be more eco friendly.

6th steep. I opened up all the tangled leaves and stalks and dunked them in a clean cup. I added room temp spring water to fill the cup to cover all the stretched leaves. I put it in the fridge for over 12 hours. That was divine!!! The opened leaves released lots of tea goodness that made this cold brew extraordinary!!!

After my first experience with #59, I watched the YouTube video about #59. Next day, I tried the 15 min steep as in the video. It was good, but I preferred my cold brew as the finishing steep. Cold(or room temp) water didn’t bring out any bitterness from the tea. (Now you know I am a baby. Nah, life itself has enough bitterness, and I try to avoid extra bitterness as much as possible :p) For people who are more mature than my tea taste, I could see that 15 min steep (with boiling water) bringing that extra touch of sophistication.

For my second day, I added a little more tea leaves. Just a little more went a long way. I had to reduce a few seconds during steeps.

I try to modify things a little bit everyday to experiment. I wish I could have more free time to truly appreciate tea again. (aka probably in 30 years when my kids have jobs or partners that can feed them well)

I look forward to my next monthly surprise!

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