We brewed our spring batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea alongside the freshly picked summer batch to observe the differences between these two consecutive harvests from the same source. These two batches exhibited the classic seasonal traits of spring and summer high mountain tea.
The color of the brewed tea shows that the summer crop was oxidized noticeably more than spring tea. The spring tea has a lighter, brighter, golden green hue. While the summer tea has a deeper golden hue with a bit more substance. The tea maker purposely pushes the summer leaf material further along in the oxidation process because of the higher concentration of catechins in the leaves due to hotter weather during the growing season. Higher concentrations of these chemical compounds in the leaves can result in more astringency in the brewed tea if they are not oxidized weill enough. At higher elevations, it's still possible to make a lightly oxidized Oolong Tea. At low and mid-elevations, summer and fall crops are made into a heavily oxidized Hongshui Oolong, Hong Oolong, or fully oxidized Black Tea.
The flavor profiles of these two batches also represent the classic seasonal differences between spring and summer crops. Spring tea is more complex and floral in character. Summer tea is mellower, with herbal, vegetal, and fruity qualities. The flavor profiles are a result of the raw material produced by the weather conditions in the growing seasons, the annual cycles in the plant's activity, and consequently the way in which the tea master will treat the leaves to bring them to the fullest potential.
Above is the guy who supervises the processing of our Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea. After several years of visiting the factory while the tea is being made, we've come to regard him as one of the most skilled high mountain tea makers we've known. He really does embody the role of a master in that he does very little! But he is fully present at the crucial stages of the overall processing, often visibly in deep concentration. Here he is just standing before the two bamboo tumblers as the leaves get tumbled inside them. He puts his nose to the woven baskets to smell the aroma wafting up from the leaves to decide when to stop.
In addition to paying close attention at the pivotal stages, he also does not skimp on hiring manual labor. This work could be done by 3 people, but he always has 5 pairs of hands to enhance the flow and thoroughness of shuffling and stacking the leaves. It is precisely this type of finesse that goes into manipulation of the freshly picked leaves to produce quality tea — starting with the initial phase of solar withering as the leaves come in from the field.
Check out our tasting video for the full commentary on a taste comparison of spring and summer harvests of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong. Oh, and it should be noted that summer/fall harvests are quite a bit cheaper than spring and winter harvests. So if you are a High Mountain Oolong lover, and you are looking for a more economical everyday drinking tea, this definitely fits the bill!
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