The photo above is a view from Dong Ding Mountain of Phoenix Village on the far ridge. The home factory where this singular batch of tea was made is at the upper side of this ridge, in a small community that is inhabited by the densest population of traditional Oolong Tea artisans in Taiwan.
This very small fall harvest of naturally cultivated Oolong leaves was painstakingly processed by a father and son team who are top representatives of their local tea industry. The most inspiring fact is that the son is wholeheartedly inheriting his family's tradition, and this small batch of tea is testimony to that.
The name "Hong Shui (Red Water) Oolong" has been a buzzword in Oolong circles in recent years. But the tea makers who have inherited their local tradition say that this is simply a new name for tea processed like their grandfathers taught them. It used to just be called "Oolong Tea"!
With the onset of High Mountain Tea, the preference of tea being a golden rather than reddish hue became popularized. And while there is a rationale to this in terms of the intricacies of the oxidation process, it's a complex issue.
Basically, the differentiation of golden vs. reddish is based on distinguishing the qualities of the tea being more or less similar to Black Tea. However, when we tasted this batch of tea, and noted the coloration, the father of this family promptly brewed another batch of tea he had made previously. This batch was more golden in color, but the flavor profile was more akin to Black Tea! It was sweeter and thicker, but more monotone, and lacked the bitter legs that give a classic Oolong its "hui gan". So we feel that this batch is testimony to a tradition — before the age of marketing lingo and "tea professionals" who know a whole lot about tea , except how to actually make it!
While this modern tea factory boasts a 5 star sanitary rating by the Department of Agriculture, it is still producing its local specialty of traditionally made Oolong Tea.
The son is now a professional tea judge in the world's largest Oolong Tea competition, hosted by the Lugu Farmers' Association. Yet, here he is, pulling a 20 hour work day to make a minimal amount of traditional Oolong — because he has taken on his family tradition.
The father and son were still processing the tea leaves when we left the factory at 3 a.m., despite the fact that the amount of tea they made that night is a small fraction of what is normally produced by modern Oolong Tea processing methods.
These leaves, stunted in their growth by natural pests, were slowly and attentively cured to make the kind of tea that was made by their forefathers. It's the local pride that keeps this tradition alive, and we are honored to witness and support this legacy.
Watch the tasting video to hear more about this tea and the story of how we procured it!
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