Year Two Of The Eco-Cha Tea Club
Traditional tea picking baskets in Muzha — Tieguanyin Country
We are now entering our second cycle of the Eco-Cha Tea Club, sharing unique batches of tea that we scout out in our ongoing involvement with the people who grow and craft them. These singular batches are not found on the market, but rather are discovered by sitting down in the homes of our tea farmer friends and being served whatever they are spontaneously inspired to put in their teapots. Of course, most of them already know what we find most exciting, and are happy to share their batches that are typically too small or too special for wholesale. They prefer to keep these batches to share with friends who visit and especially appreciate them for their distinguished character.
We thought we'd share some snapshots that reflect our adventures in discovering the batches we shared last year, and the people and places that made it happen. The above image represents one of the most inspiring resources that we've gotten to know in the last year. This guy is a pioneer who cultivates his plots of tea completely naturally, without irrigation, fertilizers or pest control. Two of our favorite batches to date in the Eco-Cha Tea Club were harvested from this plot and skillfully crafted by perhaps the most innovative tea farmer we know. We just visited him a few days ago and picked up a sample of his freshly cured harvest of late winter Four Seasons Spring. We very much look forward to what new surprises next year will bring from this farm!
This factory has become our favorite spot for learning about traditional tea making. Here we are hanging out with this father and son team who craft our traditional Dong Ding Oolong and where we just recently sourced December 2016's Eco-Cha Tea Club batch. Super humble, kind folks who are true to their local traditional specialty tea.
For us, Mr. Su in the above photo is the "Godfather of Oolong Tea". He is still actively crafting traditional batches of tea that we feel privileged to be offered. He's the guy who made the popular batch of Tieguanyin Dong Ding Oolong. We will be sure to keep tabs on the small batches that he puts his 60 years of experience into making.
The home shown above is where Andy first began learning about tea processing some 20 years ago with his old friend Mr. Chen. This is another local family who is successfully keeping their tradition alive and thriving.
The shot above was taken roadside on our spring rounds in Alishan Country. It's one of the most picturesque tea farm areas in Central Taiwan, and where some of the best High Mountain Tea comes from.
Above, our friend's mom finally sits down after spending the afternoon combing their plot of just behind their home in Phoenix Village, Lugu. After picking all morning with the hired team of pickers, she made a second round of the whole plot, picking what the fast-moving team missed.
The shot above simply shows some tea-making soul. We took this photo on our visit to our Lishan source during last spring's harvest. It's a beautiful farm, modest by High Mountain Tea production standards, with an onsite non-climate controlled factory. When the high elevation sun shines through the transparent roofing and leaves are spread out on top of the factory, it gets warm quick! And that's the way it should be in making premium tea.
The lighting was just right to capture the personality of these well-used bamboo tea trays in a small family-run factory. These racks both symbolize and realistically represent the tradition of hand-made Oolong Tea. When we walk into a factory and see only these bamboo trays, and not the large mechanized steel screen shelving that modern tea factories are equipped with, we instantly recognize the small scale production and traditional hands-on skill that are employed. This is mostly where we find these unique batches that we share in the Eco-Cha Tea Club. This is where we discover small, unorthodox batches of tea made by some of the most qualified and experienced craftsmen in the world.
So we invite you to join us as we continue on our endless journey to seek out and discover singular seasonal batches of tea that are one-of-a-kind specialties, not available anywhere else. We will continue to tell the story of each batch of tea we select, sharing photos that offer windows into this rich world of Taiwanese tea and the culture in which it flourishes. We will tell you all about the tea, where it comes from, how it's made, and share a sip-along-with-us tasting video with each unique batch. Come along for the adventure with the Eco-Cha Tea Club as we make another cycle around the sun, drawing us to remote mountainous regions around the beautiful island of Taiwan!
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Batch 65 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club was initially sourced by our friend for entry into the largest Oolong Tea Competition in the world. The standard of this competition is a medium/heavy roast, so it requires a significant level of oxidation in processing the tea leaves for optimal results. This is where this batch of tea varies most significantly from the market standard of Taiwan's High Mountain Tea. High Mountain Tea is minimally oxidized and unroasted — offering a fresh green character with a floral bouquet. This batch was not only more oxidized, but also delicately roasted to offer a more balanced, sweeter character with fruity and pastry components to compliment the floral notes.