Spring 2022 Taiwan high mountain tea harvest is slowly but steadily working its way up the mountain! Lower and mid-elevations were harvested by mid-April. Alishan High Mountain Oolong was mostly harvested by the last week in April, as Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea picking began. Our source of Shan Lin Xi Tea completed harvest on May 1. The highest elevations at Lishan and Da Yu Ling will continue through May to complete the first flush of Taiwan Teas.
After sourcing our spring batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong, we did a side by side cupping with our previous winter 2021 batch. The photos above show winter 2021 on the left and spring 2022 on the right. The dried leaves show that the previous winter crop was more mature — with larger nuggets of tightly rolled leaves, thicker stems, and a slightly more yellowish hue. The new spring crop on the right is smaller nuggs, with less stem material, and a much deeper green and uniform color — indicating that the new growth was picked before it reached full maturity. Relatively immature leaf material is generally considered ideal for making lightly oxidized, unroasted High Mountain Oolong Tea. It has a higher sap:fiber ratio, requiring only minimal manipulation of the leaves in order produce a full-flavored, heady brew. This minimal processing of the tender new growth offers a more distinct representation of the Taiwan's High Mountain Tea growing regions. Lesser processed leaf maintains the original flavor that is produced from varying climates and terroirs from south to north.
When making more heavily oxidized traditional style Oolong Tea, more mature leaf material is ideal, as it must withstand extensive processing to "ripen" the leaves into a sweeter, mellower character of Oolong.
The color of the brewed teas shows that the previous winter batch was more oxidized, or at least more processed, in an effort to reach a more thorough and uniform oxidation level throughout the mature leaf material. We remember our first impression of last winter's batch as being suitable stock for the Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition in that it was mature enough and oxidized sufficiently for roasting. This spring's produce, at least our batch, is closer to a classic High Mountain Tea stock, with a significant degree of oxidation.
The brewed leaves is the most visually indicative of the difference between these two consecutive harvests from the same source. This is when quality Oolong Tea becomes interesting on a whole different level. To experience the seasonal variations from the same terroir, same artisans — but different seasonal growing conditions offering noticeably different produce.
Is one season "better" than another? Perhaps — if one is looking to hit the mark of some prescribed standard of quality. But that simply is not what agriculture and artisan tea making is about. It's about working with each seasonal crop to bring it to its own unique potential. Acknowledging the raw material for what it is, and using the inherited skill set to make a quality tea in its own right. We really encourage all High Mountain Oolong tea lovers to explore the seasonal differences — year over year, just like wine lovers do! Check out the video of the harvest, processing and sourcing of our spring 2022 batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong!
Stay tuned for more posts about spring 2022 harvests across the board of our tea selections. After all the spring batches of HIgh Mountain Tea are in stock, we'll do a cupping of them side by side to discuss how they compare and contrast with each other.
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