How do we sustainably source our tea? Out of all the tea that's produced in Taiwan, how do we decide on what batch to buy? Find out as we take you along on our latest sourcing trip of spring Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea.
We continue to be delighted with our source of Alishan Tea that we discovered a few years ago. It is a residential farm, run by a husband and wife team, with an onsite factory, and surrounded by pine and bamboo forest in the Alishan High Mountain Tea area of Taiwan. It embodies pretty much everything we aspire to support in the local industry, and represent to tea lovers around the world. This homestead farm is among the highest elevation farms in the valley, with only small neighboring plots of tea, but no residential development above it. It's farms like this we want to support when looking for ethical and sustainably sourced teas. We have a great feeling about the people and the environment that sustainably produce this quality High Mountain Tea from the Alishan region.
Monitor the Harvest
We repeatedly showed up in the factory and on the farm that we source our Alishan High Mountain Oolong from in recent weeks to check out how the spring harvest was progressing. We slept out on site to capture the harvesting, and woke up at dawn to the wonderful scene below.
When farms are run privately, there is more care and responsibility that goes into the management of them. This, combined with smaller factories results in smaller quantities of tea leaves being processed on a daily and seasonal basis. This smaller batch factor allows for more customized processing, and is also typically done by the farmers/owners themselves, who take more pride in their processing methods and quality of their product.
Here's a shot of the new leaf growth on the morning of our batch of tea was being harvested.
You can see the harvest happening in this timelapse video:
Follow the Flavor
The tea leaves are picked by hand and immediately go through several stages of processing. After long hours of wilting and oxidation, the leaves are tossed in high-heat tumble dryers to fix them. The tea maker will brew the leaves at this stage to assess the results. Slight adjustments may be made in subsequent processing based on this assessment. This is how the brewed leaves look when they were half-cured, before they are rolled and dried.
High Mountain Spring Tea is known for its fresh, floral and mild herbal aromatic qualities. It offers a delicate balance of sweet and astringent qualities that leave an especially clean mouth-feel combined with a lingering, fragrant finish in the nose. Its a refined and complex combination of floral and sweet qualities with the inherent bitter/astringent character of tea leaves that gives Alishan High Mountain Tea its claim to fame.
These are the leaves as they are being rolled and dried the following day after harvest.
After choosing which day of harvest we like most, the final assessment of a batch of tea is when we do a tasting in our own home. Here's a shot of the brewed tea and tea leaves the first time we brewed it ourselves.
And you can watch the full tasting video here:
Take It Home
Whenever possible, we like to ride up to the farms rather than drive, as part of our sustainable practice, and pure enjoyment of high mountain tea country! Here's a roadside snapshot on the way home with our spring batch of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea!
Try Some Yourself!
LET US KNOW!
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