Light Roast Yushan High Mountain Oolong Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Batch #51 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club was sourced from an organic High Mountain Oolong Tea farm located at the trailhead to Taiwan's highest peak — Yushan, or Jade Mountain. This plot of tea is situated high up in a gorge that is the source Dong Pu Hot Springs. The teapot monument above is at the gateway to Dongpu Village.
The photo above was taken just a few weeks ago at sunrise, when we slept out on the farm. The frost covered trees at the top of the ridge above the waterfall glistened in the first rays of morning sun. At about 1400m, this farm has the rare luxury of an uphill source of irrigation at this elevation. There is a waterfall further up the gorge, and small tributaries into the gorge on the side slopes. The tea farm gets morning sun, and is socked in with fog most afternoons. The diurnal temperature variation is more extreme than most micro-climates at this elevation. This temperature variation is the primary asset of high elevation tea farms in terms of tea quality.
The farm is allowed to become overgrown with weeds between harvests, and then cut back to become fertilizer, along with leaves gathered from desiduous trees. There is no development above the farm other than an outdoor hotspring and a small guest house run by the same family that owns and manages this tea farm that was established almost 30 years ago, and transitioned to organic over 10 years ago. The tea trees are Qing Xin Oolong strain, with some grown from seed produced by the trees on the farm. So there are variants of the strain as a result of naturally growing from seed. The leaves of these variants are larger and rounder than the original cloned strain.
Above is the farm in its recent dormant winter phase, after the trees were pruned back for the first time in 4 years. This will allow for a burst of new growth this coming spring. The pristine, isolated environs of this farm make it a prized source of organic high mountain tea in Taiwan. Originally, the winter crop was reserved to be sold as raw produce to an organic tea brand, but the growing conditions this past winter produced so little yield that the deal was forfeited. This is why we were fortunate enough to procure enough to share with the Eco-Cha Tea Club!
Not only were we fortunate enough to procure part of the recent winter harvest, but it was also sufficiently oxidized to be suitable for a light roasting. We decided to call on our favorite tea maker, Grandpa Liu (with the help of his grandson) to do the roasting for us. We specifically requested a light roast — just enough to remove any remaining moisture in the leaves, and bring forth the flavor constituents within. We discovered a subtle bug bitten influence in the flavor profile after the roasting. It's a batch of tea that has been a long time coming from this source, and we are proud and honored to share it!
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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!