Organic Heavy Roast Oolong: An Eclectic Tea Making Process
This source is the most innovative and progressive tea producer we know. A husband and wife team cooperate with neighboring farmers to produce an impressive array of organically cultivated tea in the historical tea growing region of Songbolin in Nantou County. From wild and heirloom tea strains to modern hybrid cultivars of tea, they have researched and developed eclectic processing methods to make some unique styles of tea. This tea type is perhaps their most novel that we've come across in terms of its processing and curing methods.
This batch of tea is a combination of Four Seasons Spring and Jin Xuan tea leaves that are both heavily oxidized. This combination of hybrid teas offers a broad, balanced character, especially when the have undergone these unique curing methods. The proportionately mixed batch of tea leaves is then aged for one year to allow for post production oxidation. After a year of aging, they undergo an extensive roasting process. The leaves are roasted at low temperature for over 20 hours per session, for a total of 3 roasting sessions, with 3 months of "setting time" between each roasting. After the batch of tea leaves has been roasted to the desired result, it is then aged again for one year to mellow and "settle" in its composition. Finally, the leaves are minimally roasted at low temperature to deplete any acquired moisture content before being vacuum sealed in preparation for sale.
This batch of tea was harvested in 2012 and only reached completion of its curing process in 2016. This artisan has taken tea making to another level. These processing and curing methods are unique in that they are an integration of various traditional and modern tea making methods that produce a character of tea reminiscent of Muzha Tieguanyin from Northern Taiwan. It is not comparable however, given that the tea types used and even the processing methods are quite different. It is simply the character and flavor notes that are experienced in brewing a pot of these tea leaves that bring a traditional Taiwanese Tieguanyin Oolong to mind.
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.