Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club Tasting Notes
Batch 59 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is an Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong Tea sourced from the same farmer as batch 51, but from a different plot of tea. This month's batch is from their primary farm, where they grow artichokes, coffee, and fruit, as well as an ongoing variety of vegetables for their own consumption. It's at a slightly lower elevation than the plot from where Batch 59 was harvested, but it is more remote and further up the main river valley that leads to the Yushan Mountain range. The majority of tea trees on this farm appear to have adjusted more successfully to organic living than their higher elevation cousins.
This crop of tea is the most recent growth picked from new branches on the trees that were allowed to grow for four months or so, similar to our recent batch of Traditional Hong Shui Oolong that we offered last month. As with last month's batch, this tea was also affected by the Green Leafhopper, and other pests. This is inevitable, given that this is an organic farm and the summer months are most susceptible to bugs!
The most obvious difference between last month's batch and this month's is in the processing methods. This batch of tea that was harvested at 500m higher elevation, and in a much more remote mountainous region, was processed similarly to a High Mountain Tea, but with a bit more oxidation. The oxidation level is the result of more outdoor and indoor withering, as well as shuffling of the leaves. These leaves require this extra manipulation due to their natural "toughness" as a result of not being the tender new growth immediately following a previous harvest or pruning.
What these leaves have to offer as a result of the relatively slow, natural growing phase is their substance. They simply have a lot more constitution. So while they do not offer the fresh, fragrant, and delicate profile of a standard High Mountain Oolong when brewed, they have much more composition. And this composition brews slowly and steadily, with significantly more endurance. We suggest a 1:16 ratio of leaf to water. We used about 12g of tea in the above 200mL gaiwan style teapot.
It 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. It brews steadily and consistently for several brews. Don't be surprised if the first and second brew are a bit timid. These leaves take a bit of steeping to open up. But those first brews offer their own special introduction into the character of these leaves. The lighter more subtle notes are revealed before the more substantial constitution issues forth.
These leaves were baked at low temperature (80*C) for three separate intervals of six hours each — for a total of 18 hours. While this doesn't really qualify as "roasting", it has a significant effect on the flavor profile in terms of transforming any green, grassy character into a more mild, sweeter, pastry-like flavor profile. It also ensures that any remaining moisture in the leaves, and especially stems is removed, which in effect cures the leaves. This means that the flavor profile and nature of the leaves is much more stable, and able to maintain their character over time. Watch the tasting video for the full review!
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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!