Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Spring 2016 Oolong Harvests

Summary: The spring 2016 High Mountain Oolongs, the lightly oxidized Oolongs, the Baozhongs and the Hung Shui Oolongs are now all available!
The quality of this spring season is very good. While snow is quite common in the high mountains of Taiwan, this year it snowed even in Taipei and in the Wenshan area in late January. Then, the unusual cold temperatures in March and April delayed the start of spring harvests by 2 to 3 weeks in low elevations. This allowed the tea trees to rest longer and produce leaves with more concentrated flavors (even in lower altitude).
The long wait for the new spring harvests was frustrating, but it was really worth it! I have selected 28 new Oolongs & Baozhongs this spring, probably my record! This doesn't meant that everything I tasted was great and that you can purchase tea blindly in Taiwan this year. While last year was dry, there was some rain during the delayed harvest season, making some days better than others. -As I'm writing this article, I receive an e-mail from Matt telling me that my Alishan Qingxing Oolong is "absolutely delicious!"-  
This has allowed me to select a very broad range of Oolongs in terms of:
- cultivars: Jinxuan, Jade, Foshou, No. 209, SiJiChun, Qingxin and a mystery!
- locations: Wenshan, Mingjian, Zhushan, Feng Huang, ShanLinXi, ChangShuHu, Shibi, CaoLing, RuiLi, SanCengPing.
- and the highest peaks (near 2000 m or above): Tsui Feng, Tsui Luan, Lishan, Fushou Shan, Da Yu Ling 95K, 99K, 102K. (Inventory for these teas is very limited).
As you can see, the good news is that I was still able to find Oolong from Da Yu Ling! The less good news is that the laws of supply and demand are working as expected: fewer plantations in DYL means less supply and since the demand remains strong for this outstanding mountain, the prices have increased substantially.
Last week, Christopher from Germany and I tasted the delicious Oolongs from Lishan and the DYL 95K at an outdoor spot in San Hsia. It's quite fascinating that these 2 mountains, just a few kilometers apart, would produce Oolongs that can taste so different, with so much personality!
With these 2 top Oolongs, I set up a very special Chaxi: silver kettle, charcoal fire in the Nilu, a thin gaiwan, 2 light celadon singing cups, 2 pewter Chatuo, a qinghua plate and a copper JianShui.
While Da Yu Ling plantations are stunning for their surrounding views, the Fushou Shan plantation itself is stunning with its fans and the very neat care of the tea trees. This use of modern technology and precision almost feels Japanese rather than Taiwanese! I'm very glad that I can propose so many great Oolongs for you to compare and enjoy! 
Fushou shan plantation
Note: all the tea pictures you see in my boutique are for 3 grams of tea brewed for 6 minutes in a standard, white porcelain brewing set. This lets you compare the teas as if you were a professional taster. Learn to read the tea leaves to choose your teas!

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