We brewed our spring batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea alongside the freshly picked summer batch to observe the differences between these two consecutive harvests from the same source. These two batches exhibited the classic seasonal traits of spring and summer high mountain tea.
While pure iced teas made from quality Taiwan loose leaf tea are amazingly satisfying and refreshing on their own, sometimes it's also nice to mix it up with some natural flavorings. Here are some suggestions on how to flavor iced teas for an added kick.
Above is our choice pick of spring tea from our source of Wenshan Baozhong Tea. It was a surprisingly smooth process of choosing which day's harvest we wanted. At first, when we walked in and saw his tea table maxed out with 10 bowls of pre-brewed tea, and were invited to taste them and choose which one we want, it was rather intimidating!
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.
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.
We are very happy to finally be able to offer the pre-modern version of Dong Ding Oolong Tea! We've waited for years to source this local traditional specialty from our friend who simply has more demand than supply from his family plot of tea in Phoenix Village in Lugu Township, Taiwan.
Mr. Chen had initially intended to make a more heavily oxidized, traditionally made Dong Ding Oolong style tea from this day of harvest. But due to the conditions on the day of harvest, the degree of oxidation in the leaves fell short of what is optimal for making Dong Ding Oolong. We tasted it on the day after it was processed, and appreciated the character of significantly oxidized leaves that offer a substantial composition and very balanced flavor profile which makes a pleasant and satisfying, yet less pronounced alternative to the standard character of a High Mountain Oolong. So we offered to buy the day's harvest in full, given it was only a small fraction of what is normally harvested and processed in one day.
This year's winter batch is closer to the classic Li Shan High Mountain Oolong in that it is less oxidized than our recent batches from this source. Minimal oxidation offers more aromatic complexity, and a more delicate and fresh flavor profile. Watch the video below for a detailed tasting of this new batch in comparison with the previous fall batch of tea, as well as last winter's batch — all from the same farm, made by the same craftsmen.