Light Roast Concubine Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
The image above shows the ridges and valleys of northern Meishan Township in Chiayi County, where this month's batch of tea was grown. Tai He Community is a small, remote development of residential farms at around 1000 m elevation. We were first introduced to this particular farm in 2015 by Eco-Cha Andy's next door neighbor, who had been buying tea from this farmer on annual basis for years.
Above is a selfie that Andy took on his second visit to the farm, when the younger brother showed him their family plots of tea. The photo above shows the conventionally farmed plot of tea managed by the younger brother, located below the older brother's plot of tea that is at the top of the farmland.
Andy visited the farm a second time because the older brother had told him that he had transitioned his own plots of tea to completely natural farming, i.e. not using any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The image above clearly shows the contrast of a transitional plot of tea in the foreground, compared to the commercially farmed plots of tea on the neighboring farm below in the background.
On this visit in May 2016, Andy brought back samples from 3 different days of harvest, and tasted them with his mentor Lisa Lin. Lisa brewed the samples, tasted each of them, and immediately decided to purchase all 3 days of the harvest! This was because they were of good quality, but especially because the flavor profiles all had subtle indications of the leaves being bug bitten. In other words, this crop of tea had noticeably been affected by the Green Leafhopper — a tiny little insect that likes to feed on tender leaf buds, and is responsible for the making of both Oriental Beauty in northern Taiwan, and Concubine Oolong in central Taiwan. And when Lisa roasted these batches of tea, the honey character that results from the bug bitten effect became much more pronounced. This was the beginning of Eco-Cha sourcing Concubine Oolong Tea produced on this farm and masterfully roasted by Lisa!
This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was harvested in spring 2018. It just so happened that Andy visited Lisa the day after she opened and roasted one bulk bag (about 18kg) from this harvest. Normally, Concubine Tea is roasted at least twice, and sometimes several times before the desired character is achieved. But bug bitten tea is always an anomaly in that each batch is different. Andy took one sip of this tea after its first roasting, and knew that it was worth sharing just as it was. And so, we have it — a light roast Concubine Oolong Tea!
Above is a view of Zhangshuhu, looking out from the farm that we sourced this batch of tea. Zhangshuhu produces some of the best quality Alishan High Mountain Tea available. The increasingly high demand for this community's produce has made it a less sustainable source for quality High Mountain Tea. We have opted to source our Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from neighboring communities that are still relatively "under the radar", more sustainable, and still make great High Mountain Tea !
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We can see in the photo of the dried leaves above that they were hand-plucked while still very young and tender. This is evident not only by the size of the leaves, but also in the protective fur that is still on the whitish colored leaf buds. It is this stage of leaf growth, along with the heirloom cultivar of tea tree that give Bi Luo Chun its distinctive character among Green Teas — especially when it is from the first flush of spring tea buds!