Flavor: Lightly toasted, woodsy aroma. Subtle honey-essence, fresh scone character. Clean, refreshing finish.
Garden: This batch of tea was procured by our sourcing director Andy who visited a farmer he had met the year before in the northern Alishan tea producing region of Taihe. He brought a sample to his tea mentor Lisa Lin. Lisa immediately decided to purchase the standard 18kg bulk bag, and after roasting it with positive results, she bought the remaining amount from this harvest! We have the benefit of now sharing this batch that has been lightly roasted over several months by a master roaster.
Harvest: Hand picked in small batches. Spring 2016. Taihe, Chiayi, Taiwan.
The most commonly noted flavor of Concubine Oolong is a honey-like quality. This batch of tea has this quality - in the sense that, like some wild honey, it has an amazing floral/herbal bouquet over a sweet/savory flavor on the palate. This is balanced by substantial astringency to give it a clean, bright finish. This batch is a relatively light roast, undergoing two roasting with a few months between the two roasting to allow the tea to "settle" into its composition. Concubine is a fitting name in that the tea has a fickle, unpredictable character when it comes to roasting.
This type of tea is also known for its brewing power. Less leaves can be used than the standard amount to brew a high mountain tea. It will brew a strong cup that should be monitored to not over brew, and it also will yield considerably more brews than a normal oolong.
An elusive type of tea that varies with each batch made, from season to season – depending on the presence of a small insect. Concubine Oolong is the result of the leaves being bitten by a tiny green fly, called a leaf hopper, during growing season. This instigates an immune system response in the plant, resulting in a unique flavour. Normally, this bug is deterred by the regulated use of a water soluble pesticide sprayed on the plants early in the growing season. More and more, farmers are allowing their plants to go unsprayed at least one season in the year. Typically this is done after spring harvest.
In Northern Taiwan, a more common name for "bug bitten" tea is Oriental Beauty (Dong Fang Mei Ren). Oriental Beauty is made from a different Oolong varietal than the Green Heart Oolong that is cultivated for high mountain tea in Central Taiwan. Concubine also differs from Oriental Beauty in that the Concubine leaves are tightly rolled in the manner of a Taiwan Oolong, rather than the traditional mainland China method of curled, open leaves. Tight rolling is a Taiwanese innovation that protects and preserves the tea.
Our tea advisor, Lisa Lin bought most of this day’s harvest after our sourcing director Andy shared a sample of this special find with her. Lisa found the flavor and consistency of the tea to be very special – seemingly for it’s significant level of oxidation – but did not initially perceive it to possess the full character of a Concubine Oolong. It turns out, after a light double roasting, that this tea has indeed been crafted into a fine batch of Concubine Oolong Tea. They produced less than 300 pounds of tea on this day of their spring harvest, compared to 1000 pounds a day from larger productions in the area.