The plot of tea shown above is where our spring, summer, and fall batches of Shan Lin Xin High Mountain Oolong were picked from this year. The trees were allowed to continue in their vegetation after the spring harvest, and were not pruned until after the recent fall harvest. This allows for a more natural cycle of seasonal growth to occur — offering a more accurate representation of the variation between spring, summer, and fall harvests.
The photo above shows the leaves of the recent fall harvest, just before they are tossed into the tumble heaters to cease oxidation and deplete the leaves of moisture. This fall batch has noticeably less stem material than the previous summer batch, so with basically the same processing method, the fall leaves oxidized a bit more easily and thoroughly than the summer leaves. The character of tea that results from slightly more oxidation is a mellowing of the aromatic and flavor profiles, which results in a more subtle yet more substantial brew. It's less impressive upfront, but more full in composition and long-lasting in the finish. The high aromatic notes are significantly less pronounced, but it's got an added body and balance that the summer tea didn't have. Shown below are the brewed leaves of fall 2020 harvest.
We brewed the summer batch on the left and fall on the right (below). It's a bit difficult to see in the photo, but the dried leaves on the left are slightly bulkier and with more color variation, indicating more mature leaves from the summer crop. The leaves on the right are a bit darker and more uniform in color, and they are also smaller leaf nuggets with less protruding stems. We brewed 9g of tea in 150mL of 95*C water for 2 minutes in the bottom bowls, and then for 1 minute in the top bowls. The brewed tea from the fall leaves on the right is a slightly deeper hue of almost the same exact color. The fall tea seems to be a bit more luminous as well. The darker hue is indicative of a higher degree of oxidation. For gongfu style brewing in a teapot or gaiwan, we recommend starting with a 1:14 ratio of leaf to water. So about 11g of tea per 150mL of water at boiling temperature brewed for about 50 seconds per brew.
In the end, each seasonal crop has its own unique combination of contributing factors that give it a slightly different aromatic and flavor profile than other seasons. We really enjoy experiencing these seasonal variations from the same plot of tea processed in the same basic way. We encourage our High Mountain Oolong fans to follow suit in order to more fully understand this type of tea and how it can vary from season to season.
Offering seasonal batches of tea from our sources of High Mountain Oolong Tea is part of Eco-Cha's sustainable business practice both here in the local industry and in the global market. We are cooperating with the tea producers more comprehensively by procuring batches of tea from each season's harvest, rather than simply following the marketing trends that were established with the development of High Mountain Oolong Tea in the 1990's. In Taiwan, spring and winter tea are prized much more than summer and fall teas, making them a value added produce that demands a much higher price. The truth is that it is not uncommon practice for wholesalers to source summer and fall crops to be sold as spring or winter tea. So, Eco-Cha is easing the hyped demand for spring and winter harvests by sourcing almost every season's produce. We are also transparently offering these "off season" teas for what they actually are — a great value for the price!
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