Friday, December 18, 2009

December Dong Pian from Zhu Shan

Cultivar: Luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Harvest: December 9, 2009 by hand
Origin: Zhu Shan, Nantou county, Taiwan
Elevation: 300 meters.
Process: Rolled, light oxidized, unroasted.

As usual, for my first encounter with this tea, I use competition style brewing: 3 gr for 6 minutes with boiling water in the white porcelain competition set.

Small leaves indicate a low elevation. The dry leaves have a very fresh and light lavender fragrance.

The tea brew is clear and shiny. It has a light yellow color with hints of green.

The brews smells are fresh grass and cold flowers, osmanthus.

The taste is light, both refreshing and warm. It's a feeling of sunshine in the winter: the air in the mouth is cool, but at the same time one can feel the warmth the sun left on the leaves. That's why it is mostly sweet and dry with the sustained aftertaste of luanze Oolong.

Very typical for Dong Pian is the shape of the open leaves. Instead of harvesting just 1 bud and 2 leaves, the Dong Pian harvester will pick more leaves on 1 stem. Usually it's 4 or 5, but on this example, we see that we can find up to 7 leaves! The colder and shorter days of December mean little leaf growth. The Dong Pian yields are very small. The buds that grow between each leaf and stem bring light fragrances. To get more taste, more big leaves are included in the harvest.

The result is a very light, 'green', low altitude Oolong that seems never to overbrew. This is as light as fresh as it gets for Oolong, except for the (more expensive) high mountain Oolongs. That makes it a wonderful Oolong to introduce friends and family to the world of Chinese teas. If the water is near boiling, then it's really difficult to 'misbrew' it. And for beginners, it's better to start practicing with good and affordable leaves. It takes the pressure of failure away. Also, since this is a tea that can brew long, it lets you make a very relaxed gongfu cha: a few seconds more or less won't matter.

This tea comes from this area (on the left of this picture) in Zhu Shan. The whole harvest consisted of only 50 kg, which is quite low for plantations in this region, but consistent with the late winter season.

The weather in early December was very sunny and dry. It explains the sweetness of these leaves. It also explains the growth of these leaves. These two days, a cold front has reached Taiwan and temperatures have plummeted. There are first reports of snow in the high mountains. With such cold conditions, plantations sleep and stop producing Dong Pian leaves.

The young Zhu Shan farmer, his wife and kid as they took me on a tour of their plantations.
They love their land and their work.


Ian said...

This sounds great!

jay said...

I tried this tea again today and really loved it. Your brewing directions are perfect; six minutes minimum to really get the full flavor impact. Such a wonderful, fresh taste and aroma!

Karen said...

This was a wonderful recommendation, especially for the price. Very bright and sweet. :)