The Yonglong Fenghuang Community recently conducted its inaugural local workshop emulating the Lugu Farmers' Association's model of a Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea making practicum. This community is the historical heart of Dong Ding Oolong Country. It is where this specialty tea originated and continues to represent the most traditional methods of Dong Ding Oolong tea making.
This community also conducts their own local tea competition in an effort to preserve its claim to being the roots of traditional Dong Ding Tea. This competition is also directly modeled after the Lugu Farmers' Association tea competition, which has set the precedent for all tea competitions in Taiwan and beyond. The Yonglong Fenghuang Community competition's quality standard however is closer to the traditional style of Dong Ding Oolong. This is what has inspired this community to conduct this workshop — to educate its residents on how to achieve this quality and character of Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea.
Eco-Cha sees these traditional tea making workshops as the most substantial evidence of the revival and preservation of traditional tea making in Taiwan. In effect, the Lugu Farmers' Association is leading the way in counteracting the large scale promotion and production of Oolong Tea's modern incarnation as High Mountain Tea in recent decades.
The above photo shows the process of "tumbling the tea leaves in action". This is toward the end of the indoor withering and oxidation phase of the tea leaves, after the initial phase of solar withering shown in the photos above.
In traditional tea making, the phases of processing the tea leaves are determined by the appearance and aroma of the tea leaves without the use of heaters, fans, air-con, and preset timers. This stands in contrast to the standardized procedure that virtually all modern production of High Mountain Tea entails.
When the desired degree of moisture depletion and oxidation of the leaves is attained, they are put into high temperature tumble dryers to cease the oxidation process by killing the live enzymes in the leaves and remove the moisture from the leaves in a much more rapid and substantial manner. After this, the leaves undergo primary rolling and drying before they are left to set overnight. The following day the leaves are intermittently rolled and dried into tightly rolled nuggets to prevent crumbling and preserve freshness. We felt privileged to attend both of these workshops this month that give us renewed hope in the preservation of a world class traditional specialty tea.
Outdoor photos courtesy of 林凌霄.
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.