Flavor: Sweet, fruit pastry aroma. Rich, complex, smooth composition. Notes of dried fruit. Clean, dry finish.
Garden: This tea comes from Fenghuang Village, on the ridge just across from Dong Ding Mountain. Fenghuang is known for its rich red soil which differs from other locales in Lu Gu Township. This farm is managed by our good friend who inherited his family tradition as artisans of Dong Ding Oolong. Like their Traditional Dong Ding Oolong, we feel confident in saying that this is a high quality Small Leaf Black Tea.
Harvest: Hand-picked, small batch. June 2020. Fenghuang, Lugu, Taiwan.
In recent years, our friend has made his summer crops of Qing Xin Oolong and Tai Cha #20 (Ying Xiang) from his family plots of tea into Black Tea. This farm and home factory is managed by one of the most skilled traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea makers we know, and using his summer crop to make Black Tea due to demand from his long term customers is a prime representative of a more general trend in the local industry.
There is both a purity and substance of character that sets it apart from the majority of Black Teas, delivering a rich, full flavor that is both satisfying and soothing. The aroma is something like fresh baked plum cobbler, with a complex, vibrant flavor profile that includes notes of rhubarb and bergamot, and a dry lingering muscatel aftertaste.
The name Small Leaf Black Tea refers to the category of cultivars that are distinguished from... you guessed it — large leaf types! Put simply, small leaf types of tea are a result of cultivating and breeding different strains in different regional climates that mostly occurred in China over hundreds of years. This breeding of small leaf types continues today. So in Taiwan, large leaf type teas include the Assam strain that was propagated by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century, as well as the naturally occurring indigenous tea tree, and also the hybrid of these two strains, which is called Tai Cha #18, a.k.a Red Jade a.k.a Ruby Red. Virtually all other strains of tea grown in Taiwan belong to the small leaf category. These small leaf types are mostly used for making Oolong and Green Teas.
Tai Cha #18/Red Jade Black Tea has become quite popular since its commercial promotion after the 9/21 earthquake in Taiwan in 1999. Oolong Tea makers met this new demand for specialty Black Tea by using their summer crops of small leaf tea types to make Black Tea. The result is that there are not only many versions of Black Tea made from many different strains of small leaf Black Tea now made in Taiwan, but they are also made by some of the world's best Oolong Tea makers. The farm management and tea making skills that go into producing the Oolong Tea that Taiwan has become world renowned for is now being used to produce Black Tea as well. So the processing methods involved in making small leaf type Black Tea often involve the initial step of Oolong Tea making — namely, solar withering. This added step is considered to result in a more distinctive character of Black Tea with a more vibrant, complex flavor profile.
Our source of small leaf Black Tea is a prime example of this. He was born and raised in the heart of Dong Ding Oolong Tea country, and has inherited his family farm and factory. He is also a professional tea judge at the Lugu Farmers' Association and manages High Mountain Tea farms in the Shan Lin Xi tea growing region above Lugu. In addition to producing his own tea, he regularly provides the service of processing other farmers' produce in his home factory into whatever type of tea the farmer orders. So he is proficient at making traditional Dong Ding Oolong, Hong Shui Oolong, Black Tea, as well as lightly oxidized High Mountain Tea. He also has decades of experience in farm management, and produces tea that regularly wins awards in the local competitions.
In addition to this, our source of this tea has his tea leaves rolled in the manner of Oolong Tea, rather than the curled strip tea that is most common in Black Tea making. This added step preserves the integrity of the leaf by making it less susceptible to crumbling, and possibly produces a more refined flavor profile.