Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Tea cultivar TTES #22, Qin Yu

March 2020

Last year, I've shown this small new tea plantation next to the original one in San Hsia. One year later, we can see how the tea bushes have grown. A few days earlier, they would have looked even larger, because this picture was taken a week after their first harvest.
March 2021

We can see that the soil is still protected against erosion and that there's a good distance between each lane of trees. Besides, this also helps the farmer with the management: weed can't grow and thus it's easier to keep this place fully organic. We can also conclude that these trees are expected to grow much larger.
Something else is interesting about this new plantation. The farmer planted a new cultivar bred by the Taiwan Research and Extension Station. Its number is TTES #22 and it's called Qin Yu (penetrating or soaking jade). But the most interesting about it are the parents of this new cultivar: Qingxin Oolong (father) and Jinxuan (mother). These are the 2 most popular cultivars in Taiwan currently and it sounds like a very good idea to combine them into a new cultivar. This cultivar is now reality and I was able to taste and select the very first tea made from these trees on this new plantation! It's a Baozhong, because this cultivar (like its parents) is supposed to do best with a partial oxidation process. 
So, how does this new cultivar taste? It's not easy to say, because the aromas don't come just from the cultivar itself, but also from the process, the terroir, the season... That being said, I feel that the taste is on the soft side, more like Jinxuan. It's a tea that doesn't turn bitter easily, even when overbrewed and pushed to its limits. This one probably benefitted from the purity of the new plantation and the energy of the new trees. As for the fragrances, they are quite unlike Qingxin or Jinxuan. I wonder if they are linked to terroir, because they carry a lot of heavy flower fragrances that I could smell in this garden on the sunny and warm afternoon of my visit. Taiwan's most powerful flower fragrances seem to be concentrated in the brew of this Baozhong! It's very different from a high mountain Oolong and also different from a typical light oxidized Wenshan Baozhong. The flower fragrances are much more concentrated and bursting. 
This is a great start for this new cultivar. It adds variety to the possible scents and finesse to the taste. I hope I'll also be able to source some grown in the high mountains one day...
It's because of such innovations that it will never be possible to write a definitive book about Chinese teas! But here's a good attempt: M. Clifford Little has recently published 'A tribute to Chinese tea' and he liked my tea photography so much that I gave him permission to use one of them for his book cover:

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