Wenshan Baozhong Tea
Flavor: Fresh herbal aroma. Balanced, floral and buttery vegetal notes. Clean, fragrant aftertaste.
Garden: This tea farm is located in a small mountain range between Taipei and the northern coast of Taiwan. This area was initially developed for tea production in the mid-late 19th century. Baozhong tea farmers comprise a small percentage of Taiwan's contemporary tea industry. This source is a small, family-run farm that is committed to keeping their local tradition alive.
Harvest: Sustainably harvested in small batches. Spring 2018. Pinglin, Taiwan.
Wenshan Baozhong Tea has a pure character, in that the tea leaves undergo very little processing after being harvested. Like all Oolongs, the basic steps of withering, oxidation, and tumble heating are involved. But the level of oxidation for making Baozhong Tea is relatively minimal, about 10-15%. Baozhong is also an unroasted type of Oolong.
Beyond this, the leaves are only slightly curled after the tumble heating/cease oxidation stage, then dried. This allows the leaves to maintain more of their structural integrity, both visually and in terms of the chemical compounds within the leaf. In this respect, Baozhong is more similar to Green Tea or White Tea, in that the leaves are not compressed, and tightly rolled as with other Oolongs, and they are not bruised as with Black Tea.
The result of this minimal processing method is that the original, fresh green leaf character is preserved. Along with this is a substance of flavor and a distinct aromatic profile that puts Baozhong in a class of its own. It has an especially aromatic profile, with a fresh green character, yet with just enough oxidation to give it balance and substance. It is easily distinguished from its Green Tea cousins, but also stands clearly apart from High Mountain Tea and other traditionally made Oolongs.
The Story Of This Tea
It appears that minimal oxidation of tea leaves after they are picked was accidentally discovered to enhance the flavor profile of Green Tea. The goal of curing Green Tea is to lock in the freshness of the young tea leaves upon picking them. This is accomplished by drying them as soon as possible. Of course, this is not totally feasible, as the freshly picked leaves need to be taken in from the field to be dried. It is likely that this is how Baozhong Tea was invented, since Green Tea was the historical tea of choice in mainland China for centuries, and then in Taiwan. However, by the late 19th century, Oolong (partially oxidized) Tea was the main export to the West from Taiwan.
The name Baozhong translates literally as "wrapped type", as it was originally wrapped in plain brown wrapping paper. This pre-modern packaging also allowed for post-production oxidation, which eventually led tea merchants aging this tea type for added value. Nowadays, some of the most sought after aged tea in Taiwan is Baozhong Tea. One reason for this is that curled leaves have a lot more surface exposure, and oxidize more quickly and easily than rolled leaves. This delicate finesse in the making of Baozhong, along with its conduciveness to aging is what has kept it a popular choice since the 1800's!