October 25, 2019
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"!
July 07, 2019 1 Comment
March 14, 2019 3 Comments
March 08, 2019 1 Comment
August 07, 2018
August 07, 2017
Pictured above is the Little Green Leafhopper (小綠葉蟬), the tiny insect that is responsible for the creation of Concubine Oolong Tea. It's a bit of Nature's magic at work. Only about 0.5 cm in length, this "mini grasshopper" loves to feed on the sap of tender tea leaf buds. Bug-bitten Tea (as it is called in Taiwanese), has a distinct honey-like note in its flavor profile. Concubine Tea is made from bug-bitten tea leaves that are processed in a similar fashion to traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. The name was chosen in reference to the original, or at least the most renowned form of bug-bitten tea — Oriental Beauty.
June 18, 2015
All three crops had been affected more or less by the tiny little insect that is responsible for the unique, honey-like qualities in Concubine Oolong.
June 14, 2015
We spent several days over the last couple weeks filming in tea country (Lugu) and in Taichung City with the Buddhist-based Da Ai Television station. It will a while before the program is aired, but for now we can share some behind the scene shots. Here we are at Tony and Lisa Lin's tea table playing with tea design ideas.
January 06, 2014
An elusive type of tea that varies with each batch made, from season to season – depending on the presence of a small insect. Concubine Oolong is the result of the leaves being bitten by a tiny fly during growing season. This causes a kind of "scarring" of the leaf which results in partial oxidation while the leaf is still growing. It also instigates an immune system response in the plant, resulting in a unique flavor. Normally, this bug is deterred by the regulated use of a water soluble pesticide sprayed on the plants early in the growing season. More and more, farmers are allowing their plants to go unsprayed at least one season in the year. Typically this is done in summer, the most prolific season for the insect that is responsible for the production of Concubine tea.
Produced in Northern Taiwan, a more common name for "bug bitten" tea is Oriental Beauty (Dong Fang Mei Ren - also called Bai Hao Oolong or Peng Feng Cha). Oriental Beauty is made from a slightly different green heart oolong varietal than that which is cultivated for high mountain tea in Central Taiwan. Concubine also differs from Oriental Beauty in that the Concubine leaves are tightly rolled in the manner of a modern Taiwan Oolong, rather than the traditional mainland China method of curled, open leaves. Tightly rolling the leaves is a Taiwanese innovation that protects and preserves the tea.
Our tea mentors happened upon this batch of tea while tasting a farmer friend’s Shan Lin Xi high mountain spring tea. The farmer mentioned in passing that he had a batch of tea from the winter prior’s harvest that had been affected by this bug due to an oversight in not spraying a small section of his self-run farm. It is very rare to find winter tea produced in this fashion from a high elevation farm.
It is a relatively small farm, managed by a husband and wife team who transformed their plot of virgin high mountain bamboo forest into a tea garden just ten years ago. Currently in its prime age, the tea garden is at about 1,600 meters elevation in one of the largest and most popular regions of Taiwan for producing top quality high mountain oolong tea. This couple manages their farm by themselves, using only natural fertilizers, zero weed killers, and only a minimal amount of water soluble pesticides early in the growing season. They produce approximately 300 pounds of tea from a typical day's spring harvest, compared to 1000 pounds a day from larger productions in the area.