Saturday, May 29, 2021

2020 Spring Concubine Oolong from Hsin Chu county

In Taiwan, a Concubine Oolong is usually a summer Oolong from Central Taiwan that has been insect bitten and has a high oxidation level. Instead of being harvested early (buds and small leaves) and processed into a twisted shape, like Oriental Beauty, a Concubine Oolong is a harvest of rather mature leaves that are then rolled. Basically, these are the 2 main differences between an Oriental Beauty (OB) and a Concubine Oolong. An other difference is that OB usually comes, historically, from an area that stretches from Taoyuan to Miaoli, while Concubine Oolongs were invented in Dong Ding in Nantou, Central Taiwan.

So, this tea made in Hsin Chu, during the spring season, doesn't really fit the usual profile of a Concubine Oolong. It's not from the Central region and it's not from summer. But, in this case, these 2 discrepancies are actually improvements! 

First, because this Concubine comes from trees that produce OB in summer, fall and winter, the plantation is pesticide free all year long. The farmer relies on jassid bites to produce high quality OB and tries to welcome these insects as much as possible. And, in 2020, we have the case where the leaves have the typical honey scents due to these bites! (In previous years, this was much less the case). 

Second, spring is a season with lower temperatures than summer and this produces teas that have a lighter oxidation level and finer aromas. Besides, spring teas are also more potent and full of energy, because the trees had the longest rest since their previous harvest. The trend to make Concubine Oolong in summer appeared to help farmers achieve better prices for their leaves during that season. In summer, the strong sunshine and continuous heat even during the night explain why leaves mature quickly and tend to become bitter and more oxidized. In spring, the temperatures are still cool during the night and this helps to preserve more freshness and lighter aromas than in summer.  
These 2 reasons help explain why I have selected this spring 2020 Concubine Oolong from Hsin Chu. Let's also point out that this tea is traditionally roasted. It's already wonderful to taste now, but it is also suitable for aging. And if you wish to have an idea of how it will age, you can try the 2011 version of this tea from the same farmer! The sweet honey aromas become even more intense and smooth.

I have also selected the top version of this 2020 spring Hsin Chu Concubine. The scents and taste are very similar, just even more elegant! (Comparing the 2 versions can be a good exercise to understand what characteristics make a tea rise above its peers.)

 I love how this Oolong has so many complex notes of honey, chocolate, flowers, fruit, sweetness, wood, malt, lightness... and how it all blends so nicely into one refined fragrance and one yummy taste!


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