Can you spot which is the summer and which is the spring Shan Lin Shi Oolong?
The most sought after seasons for Taiwan's High Mountain Oolong are spring (around early May) and winter (around early November). This is the time when the days are warm enough for the leaves to grow and the nights cold so that the fragrance will be crisp, floral and fresh. Therefore, 99% of all High Mountain Oolongs sold in Taiwan are either spring or winter Oolongs.
However, tea leaves grow most in summer and they also need to be harvested to prepare the tea trees for the next season. And it's not likely that tea farmers will throw away these leaves, especially when they had to be harvested by hand. So, they mostly end up being sold as spring or winter Oolongs at lower prices.
Therefore, if you're a tea fan or tea taster, it is important to learn to recognize a summer Oolong. The best way to learn is to brew the same tea from the same plantation, but a different harvest time.
Here, the first Oolong (above on the left) is my Spring Shan Lin Shi from Long Feng Xia (1650 meters). It was harvested on April 30, 2008.
The second Oolong is from the same plantation, but its harvest date is July 2nd 2008.
Both have been brewed with 3 grams for 6 minutes (tea competition standard).
- The darker brew doesn't necessarily means it's summer. Here, my spring Oolong is the darker one, because the oxidation was a little stronger than the summer Oolong.
- The size of the leaves is not necessarily a good indicator either. When the leaves come from the top of the pack (here summer) they are longer than those from the bottom (spring).
- The color of the open leaves: the spring leaves appear greener (despite a slightly stronger oxidation). The hot summer climate tends to make the leaves yellow!
Summer Oolongs have a reputation of being harsh and bitter. This Summer Shan Lin Shi must be an exception! It is almost as mellow and smooth as its spring version. But instead of being light, it is full body.
This is, in my opinion, the best way to tell that an Oolong is from summer. Due to the higher temperatures, the fragrances are not light and floral, but tend to be like wheat and ripe fruit.
Conclusion: I'm adding this Summer 2008 Shan Lin Shi Oolong to my selection. Not only is it a very nice High Mountain Oolong that brings a lot of sun and warmth in your cup, but it is also a useful tea to learn about the characteristics of summer Oolongs.