Shan Lin Shi - Long Feng Xia Oolong tea plantation at 1650 meters altitude.
Today's top Taiwan Oolongs come from High Mountains like Shan Lin Shi or Lishan. Usually, the higher the better, because the mountain climate brings additional freshness and crispiness to the leaves of luanze (qingxin) Oolong. (Nights are cold, days are hot and afternoons misty). This is a reason why lightly oxidized, fresh Gao Shan Oolongs are so popular.
It is less known that high mountain Mao Cha (unroasted, lightly oxidized Oolong) is also the base for the best competition Oolongs at the Dong Ding Oolong tea competition. The Lugu Farmer's association holds this largest tea competition twice a year. To qualify, all Oolongs need to be roasted, so that they display the traditional Dong Ding Oolong taste. With approximately 5000 participants, Oolongs from all Taiwan compete. And the top ten winners regularly come from the highest peaks. Roasting is a skill and art that can improve any tea. Still, there is a rule that the better the input, the better the chances to get an excellent output.
Dry leaves are dark green. The roasting is light to medium and hasn't changed their color very much.
The color of the brew in the qingbai and the celadon cup shows a yellow transformation. The classic Dong Ding roast fragrance and sweetness appears first. Then follows the fresh, green, rich fragrance of the Shan Lin Shi mountain. This roasting level is highlighting its character without changing it. The impact is somehow similar as with this lightly roasted Lishan Oolong. This is especially true when I drink it gongfu style (as opposed as when I test it). The roasting of the Shan Lin Shi is a little stronger than the Lishan, though. This is normal, because the higher the mountain, the more fragile and light is the fragrance, and the lighter and careful it must be roasted to preserve its original character.
I also compared it with a winter classic roast Dong Ding Oolong from Feng Huang. The same rule applied also here: the Oolong from Feng Huang had a stronger roast than that of Shan Lin Shi. It felt very sweet, but more simple, less rich in aromas and with less energy than the Shan Lin Shi classic roast. It was an excellent idea to try this roasting. Now, I wonder how it will evolve with time...
Below, I tested 5 Gao Shan Oolongs:
- Spring 2007, Dong Ding competition ranked number 8 (from LiShan), top left
- Winter 2007, my Lishan light roast Oolong, second row left
- Winter 2007, this classic roast Shan Lin Shi, top right
- Winter 2007, strong roast Shan Lin Shi, second row right
- Winter 2007, Shan Lin Shi Oolong without roast, third row.
All these 5 Oolongs were brewed with 3 grams for 5 minutes. The difference in color with the last, unroasted Oolong is most obvious. A careful observation of the color will also tell which Oolong is more roasted and which one is less. But the difference in roasting level is even more obvious when you taste the teas.
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