Our friend chose to only use one pot, or tumble heater, for the fixing stage. This would make it a slower and more relaxed tea making session, while allowing the leaves that were picked later in the day to oxidize more — resulting in a more uniformly cured batch of tea.
The photo above shows new leaf growth at the optimal growth stage for harvest, particularly given this year's drought conditions. Normally, the leaves would be a bit larger. But the most essential factor is that there is sufficient new leaf growth that is still in its vibrant growth stage. This is most obviously indicated by pert V-shape contour of the newest growth. The leaves lower down on the newly sprouted branches will eventually flatten out, and settle into their more "permanent" vegetation stage. It's the new, vibrant leaves that are mature enough to have substance, but tender enough to be optimal raw material for premium Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea.
The Chairman of Taiwan's Department of Agriculture made an appearance in our neighborhood (Zhushan) to conduct a field survey of the impact drought conditions have made on crops of spring tea. The Tea Research and Extension Station reported that yield is down 30-50% from average at lower elevations, and higher elevations are not much better.
Taiwan produces some of the world’s best teas. Learning when, where and how to procure them only comes from many years of involvement in local tea industry and culture. Here we give you an inside look at what's entailed in bringing you some of the best of Taiwan's teas.
These leaves were brought into the factory the afternoon before we showed up at the end of February for our share of early spring Bi Luo Chun Green Tea. The raw leaves in this photo have set overnight, slowly wilting and subtly transforming in their chemical constituents. Our batch was already completely processed, having been picked and delivered to the factory the morning prior. These leaves were picked within 14 days of sprouting. And they will grow faster as spring advances. It is this earliest new spring growth that produces the finest quality Bi Luo Chun, and this year is our earliest spring procurement yet.
Over the course of our chat, catching up on spring harvest, competition, and other tea related topics, we realized that this artisan of Traditional Tie Guan Yin Oolong is the single most patient and painstaking tea maker we know. The amount of time and serious labor he puts into making a very minimal amount of tea is just so far off the charts of any other type of tea production we've seen. Oh, and he won first place prize a year and half ago, amidst top 2% and top 10% prizes that he is awarded consistently in the Muzha Farmers' Association Traditional Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea competition.
The marketing trends of modern tea production in Taiwan have, for a number of reasons, resulted in a clear discrimination of the quality and value of tea that is harvested by machine compared with tea harvested by hand. These initial reasons have been conveyed to foreign purveyors of Taiwanese teas, who consequently represent the product as such today. Much less conveyed is the fact that tea production methods have evolved significantly in Taiwan in recent decades. This calls for a current assessment of the state of the industry today.
The inspiration for this post began when we first tasted our spring batches of tea this year. Especially for the three teas that we'll take a look at here, we immediately thought upon tasting each of them, they are noticeably different from last winter's batch. So first, let's list the main points to observe in comparing seasonal batches from the same source of tea.
Mr. and Mrs. Chen were lucky to have chosen April 10 for the harvest of the small plot of Jin Xuan they manage for their childhood friend and tea partner. It was sunny and breezy, perfect weather for harvesting spring tea!
Now over 40 years running, this spring's Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition consisted of 6,441 entries. This pioneering tea competition was designed to maintain and promote a standard of high quality in the production of this traditional type of Oolong Tea.
Eco-Cha is dedicated to finding the farms that are smaller and independently run from start to finish in the making of quality tea. This is what we have learned to be worth supporting and promoting here on the ground, at the source.
So, it was on my visit to taste the minimal batch of summer harvest that was filmed by the TV crew that we tasted the "special spring batch" that Mr. Liu had retrieved and put through a single roasting. I reiterated that I would like to buy this tea if it becomes available.