Lishan High Mountain Oolong Tea Tasting Notes | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Batch 70 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a second flush Lishan High Mountain Oolong Tea. During this growing season that took place from late May to late July, Taiwan began to have rain after a year of dry weather that put us in a record breaking drought. In many places on the island, it became a bit too much rain by the end of July. But at this elevation, there were many sunny days, while the lower regions continued to get dumped upon. In addition to this, the soil at this elevation is rockier and more porous than further down the mountain, so the rainfall drains more readily, and prevents the roots of the tea trees from being damaged.
Above we see the dried leaves of spring harvest on the left and summer on the right. They look fairly similar in this form, but the summer leaf on the right is rolled into slightly larger nuggets — indicating that they matured more fully. The spring crop was slightly stunted in its growth due to the lack of rain.
The summer batch is noticeably less oxidized than the spring batch, and has maintained its fresh green character that Lishan tea is most renowned for. The leaves were sufficiently oxidized in order to remove the green grassy character that is inherently in the leaves. This is what distinguishes Oolong from Green Tea. Just a minimal amount of oxidation resulting from gently shuffling the leaves intermittently over long periods of wilting transforms the chemical compounds in the leaves, offering a more complex and substantial flavor profile. This batch of tea offers a buttery, savory aroma — especially upon moistening the leaves, but also throughout subsequent brews. The flavor profile is mildly sweet fresh cream, with herbal notes. The finish is clean, soft, yet lingering and subtly heady, with floral undertones.
We can see in the photo above that the bowl of tea on the right (summer) is lighter and brighter than the bowl on the left (spring). This is the visual representation of the difference in the oxidation levels of the leaves, along with more subtle factors such as uniform depletion of moisture and the initial impact of solar withering. The spring batch had a very substantial flavor profile with a bold, lasting finish. The summer batch is more delicate, refined, and well — representative of a spring tea! This is the irony of this year's produce so far. Spring harvest acted more like a winter crop, and summer harvest acted more like a spring crop — given the weather during the growing seasons.
We have been drinking Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea for 30 years. We can honestly say that we actually feel like we've gotten to know and understand it more intimately in the last decade. And the foundation of this understanding has come from experiencing produce from the same farm on a seasonal basis, year in and year out. It's really the only way to get to know what happens, and why. We also live here, and are aware of seasonal weather that influences each seasonal crop. This is the deeper appreciation of tea — just like wine. Tea from the same farm, same farmer, same tea makers — varying from season to season. High Mountain Oolong is the most recognizable of all tea types in terms of its seasonal variation, in our experience of Taiwan Tea.
So we offer this batch of Lishan High Mountain Oolong to the tea club with the intention of representing Taiwan's most famous name of this tea type, and in doing so, talk about the reality of tea production here on the ground — in the midst of climate change and all the unpredictability that it brings us in the 21st century of tea culture. This is a tradition that has developed for thousands of years, and spread around the globe. Here we are in one of the most renowned locations for specialty tea production, sharing our experience with you. Thank you for being here with us!
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