Small Leaf Black Tea
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Flavor: Sweet, fruit pastry aroma. Rich, complex, malty, stone fruit flavor profile. Clean, dry finish.
Garden: This tea is grown and processed in Ruifeng Village, Meishan Township, in the Alishan tea producing region of Taiwan. Alishan is the southernmost High Mountain Tea producing region, with the Tropic of Cancer running through it. Being further south, it gets more direct sunlight, combined with almost daily afternoon fog that rises from the valleys below. These farms are at 1100-1400m elevation, providing the ideal growing conditions for this produce.
Harvest: Hand-picked, small batch. Ruifeng, Meishan, Taiwan. Summer 2021.
This batch of tea was made from a summer harvest of Jin Xuan — a hybrid cultivar produced by the Tea Research Extension Station (TRES) in Taiwan and is registered as Tai Cha #12 (台茶12號). It was designed to possess a stronger immunity to naturally occurring "pests" in the regional climate of Taiwan while producing a somewhat larger leaf that increases yield. It is known for its buttery or milk flavor qualities and has a milder astringency and smoother texture.
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. Almost 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.
The source of this tea is a very reputable wholesale source for tea merchants throughout Taiwan and mainland China. Their tea is often sold before it is finished being made. We have seen professional competition players visit the factory during harvest time, assess the daily batches of tea half way through their curing process, and make large volume orders. In short, High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong Tea from this source is some of the best of its type on the market.
We befriended the family who runs this factory a few years ago, and have been sourcing our Lishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from them since then. They cooperate with the neighboring tea farmers in their production methods. They purchase quality fertilizer and set guidelines for the farmers to follow in their farm management. They then purchase the raw produce in full from the farmers and process the tea leaves themselves, and handle the sales to wholesale and retail customers. The farmers are often also the craftsmen who process the leaves.
This arrangement is sustainable in several ways. It relieves the farmers of the pressures of investing in the cost of processing their produce. The farmers are able to focus on farm management alone, and not have to worry about promoting and selling their tea. It is far more stable in terms of steady income on a seasonal basis for the farmers, and their lives are made easier as a result of this business relationship.
This region is also a more sustainable agricultural resource than other High Mountain Tea producing regions, due to the fact that the farms are located in a previously developed residential area. Tea producers in Meishan Township have repurposed their land resources to meet the growing demand of high quality tea. This has significantly less impact on the environment than clearing previously undeveloped land for tea production.
In addition to this, our source of this tea has their Small Leaf Black 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.
Brewing Guide: 8g tea in 300ml 95°C water. Steep for 3 minutes. Re-steep. Adjust to taste.
Cold Brew: Use 8g of tea per liter of water. Brew tea at room temperature for 2-3 hours, and enjoy. Or you can put your cold brew bottle in the fridge to brew overnight and be ready to drink the next day.
Gongfu Brew: Use 11g for a 175 ml pot. Use boiling temperature water and brew for about 40 seconds. Increase brewing time 5 seconds with each successive brew. The leaves can be brewed 5-6 times.