Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Teas are typically harvested 3 or 4 times a year. Between the most popular spring and winter harvests, there are usually summer and/or fall crops. In recent years, we've been dedicated to sourcing these "in between" harvests as much as possible. We do this for two reasons.
We took this photo last spring when we slept out at this spot in order to catch the early morning harvest. It gives you a sense of the environment and the extent of farm development in this area of the Alishan High Mountain Tea producing region. It is one of the reasons we've chosen this farm as our source. This area was already developed as a rural farming community before the onset of modern tea production in Taiwan. The family farms were simply repurposed to grow tea when High Mountain Tea became popular. So, the development of tea production in this area has had less environmental impact than most other High Mountain Tea producing regions in Taiwan.
It brews a clear, bright, yellow/green tea with a balanced creamy savory aroma and a satisfying savory scone flavor profile, with subtle floral notes in the finish. It's character really comes forth after the brew has cooled to room temperature.
It was a beautiful morning, and although the sun was quite strong, it felt so good to be doing what we love most — riding into the hills to source quality Taiwanese Tea! We've ridden this rode at dozens of times over the last 20+ years, and it never gets old. Each time we take this trip, we see these mountains in a different light. As far as we recall, this is the first time we stopped at this awesome spot on this bridge!
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.
The fall harvest of high elevation farms is somewhat of a well kept secret in terms of the value for the money. Like all High Mountain Oolong growing regions, the local market price is more than a third cheaper than spring and winter harvests. But the fact remains that the difference in these harvests in only a few months apart! Different growing seasons have clearly noticeable influences on the constitution of the new leaf growth, and as a result — of the character of tea that is made from them. However, while the differences are notably significant, they are not at all drastic!
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"!
We've been procuring High Mountain Tea from this region for over 20 years. And it has only been in recent years that we've discovered that quality batches of tea are produced from both summer and fall harvests — and at a significantly lower price than spring and winter harvests. While readily admitting that we, along with the majority of avid tea lovers in Taiwan, were perhaps snobbishly prejudiced toward spring and winter harvests — wanting only what has been promoted to be the best choices — we also happily acknowledge that there has been been progress in the production of High Mountain Tea.