Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter 2017 Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu county

The cradle of Oriental Beauty Oolong is located in the small adjacent towns of Beipu and Emei in Hsin Chu county. That's where I visited one of my farmer's beautiful plantations of Qingxin Dapang tea trees last week. Not only is the plantation located on the slopes of a nearby hill (which helps drain excess water from the field), but it's also grown in organic fashion. We can see that the trees are sparse and surrounded by other plants.
While many tea trees see their flowers wilt within days of their bloom, the Qingxin Dapang flowers can last 1 month. I wonder how honey made from tea flowers tastes like?! Would it have some tea scent?
There are also a few banana trees next to this plantation! It's a joy to see tea trees so well integrated in this diverse flora.
Since natural farming means that you let sick and old trees die (instead of treating them with various chemicals), you also need to plant new trees to replace the old. This is what the farmer has recently done on this plantation. He has cut twigs from healthy trees and planted them in the soil so that they would produce roots and grow into identical trees. 2 examples below:
This method requires more effort from the farmer and assumes that the cut branch is healthy. He had to dig holes and bring lots of water to water the planted branches. But this method is sustainable and ensures that what he plants is suited for this place.
It's an important point to grow the cultivar most suitable to your terroir (the natural environment that is formed by the soil and the climate). In fall 2012, I tasted over 10 different OBs made from different cultivars and concluded that Qingxin Dapang is, indeed, the best cultivar for this type of Oolong. That's the reason why this cultivar is most used in Hsin Chu county where farmers specialize in this process.

Winter 2017 Oriental Beauty
As I visited the farmer who produced my 2016 summer Oriental Beauty tradition, I tasted several of his teas and was most thrilled with this winter Oriental Beauty:

It was harvested by hand in Guanxi (near HsinChu, Taiwan) on October 26th and had just been lightly roasted. This production batch came in a bag of 2.5 kg (only!) The nice thing about it is that it's not blended. That's why its taste feels so pure and the aromas are so clear and clean!
I also liked the fact that you could taste the winter character in this OB. Since the weather is cooler, less sunny, the oxidation level of the leaves is lower than in summer. The fragrances have higher notes and are more perfume like. I used barely 2 grams in my silver teapot. Since it's made of buds and recently roasted, I didn't let the tea brew long. That's why the first brew looks rather pale. But its fragrance is magnificent!
It's also a beauty, but a different beauty. It is more pure, refined and elevated. The taste is sweet and clean, but still a little bit dry due to the roasting. Like the 2016 summer OB tradition, this is also an Oolong that is going to improve with time.
The next brews had more richness and sweetness, but still with this wonderful purity and clarity that is visible in the brew! That's why I chose a branch of raw cotton on my Chaxi as a symbol for this natural purity.
My brewing advice for this winter OB is to use fewer leaves, a slow pour and rather short brewing times in order to emphasize the lightness and refinement of its character. It's also a very good tea for aging.


EG said...

Hi Stéphane. I was interested in your brewing advice for this Oriental Beauty and wondered if the same idea could be applied to some other teas as well: the shorter brew with fewer leaves, to bring out the more refined, sweet and fragrant side of the tea, while avoiding harshness. I also wondered if I'd understood what you mean by the 'dryness' of the tea due to roasting. Is it about the sensation in the throat when swallowing the tea (astringency or tannins) ?
Nice article!

TeaMasters said...

Hi EG. Nice for your comment. Actually, to make it simply more fragrant, you'd add more leaves and brew short. In this case, the tea is so fragrant that it's OK to brew it lighter (= with fewer leaves).
And yes, by dryness I mean there are some tannins that are felt in the throat and at the back of the palate.