Above are tea leaves from the very same batch that we shared in the Eco-Cha Tea Club last November, but which have been roasted twice, for about 15 hours total. This amount of roasting classifies as a light-medium roast. The fresh vibrant unroasted flavor profile in the November batch has now been cured and balanced by the roasting effect, and a mildly roasted character has been attained. If you look back at the appearance of the dried leaves in November's tasting notes blog, they had a distinctly greenish-yellow highlights resulting from the bug-bitten effect on the leaves. Now the leaves are considerably darker, yet still maintain deep green hues.
The appearance of the brewed tea has gained substance, and become a deeper yellowish gold in comparison to the thinner, lighter unroasted brew. This coincides with the flavor profile in that the roasted version is heartier, with a more balanced character. The aroma coming off the leaves from the initial rinse is reminiscent of buttered carrots or yams. After the first brew, the aroma is more like grilled corn, cooling off into freshly baked scones. The second pour brought on stronger roasted vegetable notes, but again cooling off into a pastry aroma.
Commonly with bug-bitten teas, the flavor can be slightly sharp, so be attentive to not over-brew in the first couple pours. There are sweet floral overtones at the start, moving into fruity and roasted vegetable notes, and by the third brew the honey character comes through in a more balanced and smooth composition. Vibrant, almost tingly qualities coming from a balanced combination of sweet, floral and bitter flavors — bug-bitten is really in a category of its own. And noticing the effect of roasting the leaves even lightly allows us to experience the transformation in the composition of the leaves - offering a distinctly different character.
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.