Shown above is our spring batch of Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea in the making. These leaves have just finished their final tumbling, and will set for at least 3 hours — covered by a bamboo tray to contain the heat that emanates from the molecular transformation within the leaves that results in their oxidation.
The extensive wilting process up to this stage is to slowly and uniformly dehydrate the leaves, which leads to the oxidation of the chemical compounds in the leaves. Simply put, this is where the magic happens! Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea is at least twice as oxidized as a standard Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea. It is also significantly more oxidized than the modern roasted version of Dong Ding Oolong. The traditional recipe for Dong Ding Oolong Tea did not involve post production roasting at all. This is an evolution that began with tea merchants roasting past seasonal batches of Dong Ding Oolong, and offering a roasted version along with their newest seasonal batches of unroasted tea. Then the standards of the local tea competition made it official so to speak, and roasted Dong Ding Oolong became the market standard in recent decades.
Our first batch of 2022 offerings of Traditional Dong Ding Oolong is made from the hybrid strain Tai Cha #20 Ying Xiang Oolong. This cultivar is the closest to Qing Xin Oolong of all hybrid Taiwan Tea strains. In common terms, the father and grandfather of Ying Xiang Oolong are both Qing Xin Oolong. It got its name from the extraordinary aromatic profile it offers — which is most pronounced as a light to medium oxidation, unroasted Oolong. This strain was also designed by the Tea Research and Extension Station to be well suited for mid-elevation climates. It can endure drier and hotter conditions than Qing Xin, and it is more prolific.
If the above photo looks familiar, it's because it is from Batch 64 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club, when we shared a late winter harvest from this same plot of tea. To date, our two favorite batches Tai Cha #20 from our friend Mr. Chen have been Batch 64 and this spring 2022 batch of Traditional Dong Ding Oolong. Two distinctly different flavor profiles that resulted from both the difference in seasonal growing conditions, and different processing methods — namely, the degree of oxidation of the leaves.
This local tea professional is who we talk shop with the most out of all our tea connections in recent years. We've known Mr. Chen for about 20 years, and in the last 10 years, we've not only become close friends, but we have also become solid business associates. We have learned the most about the fundamentals of Taiwan Tea production from him, along with the local industry, its history, and current state of affairs. It's taken us 30 years to reach this depth of understanding that has only been made possible by ongoing personal interactions like this. Respect!
Watch the tasting video here:
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