(No18 red jade tea following fermentation waiting for first roast)
I’m into tea personally and this year I’ve been really getting into Taiwanese tea as I’m stuck in Taiwan all year.
Taiwan is one of the best places to enjoy tea and tea culture bar none worldwide.
Recently I’ve been learning about tea horticulture, production and of course tasting. Happy to discuss here with people who are into that side of things …But mostly I guess this can be for talking about your favourite tea and preparation technique.
My two recent favourites are Nantou’s Yuchi Bai Cha (White tea wild tea plants) and Yuchi MiXiang Hong Hong Cha (honey aroma black tea)
These two are a revelation and the wild purple bud white tea is simply incredible with a natural sweet floral flavour after a very light rolling and fermentation and final roast . It’s naturally organic with no fertilizer .The colours are superb too. It honesty just looks like you are brewing a bunch of fallen autumn leaves . This is a very special unique tea to Taiwan. Would you have guessed it was tea and not only that but possibly the best tea you ever tasted?
I have a friend who is a full time tea trader so I’ve been learning from her about various Oolongs and DongFangMeiRen (oriental beauty) and tea varieties . If you have questions she can help too if I ask nicely .
Just post your favourite tea finds here. If it’s not Taiwanese that’s just fine too.
I think you may be right, but it’s spectacularly good if they know how to do it right. Another advantage is that it’s (very likely ) truly organic. My tea expert friend says it also tastes very different than organic teas which have been fertilized. Also these wild teas can be a different knd of variety (either an old variety or hybridised or truly wild ) which grows fifteen feet tall instead of like a bush. They are actually trees.
Ya, lots of potential. Though qhen it truly kicks off i see a lot of people letting their shrubs grow into trees and fertilizing. The market will sort that out. Lots an lots of variables, makes it more exciting! A marketing agents wet dream
I’d be interested to hear a recommendation for an organic oolong.
To be honest I’ve not ever had a great oolong processed from the wild leaves, which appears to me to be the main method of organic tea production here. As far as I understand it they are basically just raiding old abandoned tea growing estates and picking what looks fit to be processed.
The first time I has “real” tea was in Taichung. The laoban at the tea house did the gongfu tea service with the aroma cups and all for us. That started my love affair with Taiwan tea. Prior to that my idea of tea drinking was American Southern style sweet tea.
I’ve had the 蜜香紅茶 MiXiang HongCha and I liked it quite a bit. My brother in law brought it when he came to visit.
I’m also partial to wenshan baochung cha and like to visit Pinglin to hike and buy tea. They also have a nice tea museum there.
When I can’t get tea from my usual tea vendor, Ten Ren consistently provides a quality product.
There are a lot of middle men in taiwan so marketing forms many names. I can put you in touch with farmers here that sell organc red oolong, but its technically not oolong, more of a regional branding scheme which is common in taiwan. Can message me if interested. Here also has organic assam and black teas. Some others, lots of testing and mucking about. Not cheap though.
To be fair, the main method of organic tea is plantation, not wild. I may not have the finest sense of taste, but the biology and.agriculture side i am familiar with and promise you that the wild tree thing is mostly a marketing gimmick. taiwan is full of bullshit in this regard, not just tea. Loosely translated: tea grown in devasted wild areas.
Taiwan has some of the most amazing teas, hands down. but never forget the amount of corruptions, storytelling and essentially just flat BS goes into the marketing. Chinese culture buys stories. Like art, so just bear that in mind as it isnt all what it seems.
Many abandoned farms in taiwan are now being rented to huaren and they cler the weeds and create a wonderful story. some are amazing, some arent. Hopefully i am wrong, but seems a great deal of people are selling a quality story, but the quality of the product isnt consistent yet. For that reason i like talking to actual tea farmers that when questioned have answers that check out. The middle men.are hit and miss. when it comes to food, i suggest talking to the builders casually with a free drink rather than to the real estate agent that offers you a free drink
That all said, as brian mentions, i have also had some exceptional cups of wild white tea that i really do enjoy. Now that summer is closing, many more to come for all of us
For as long as I’ve been buying oolong, in the typical tea shop around town, there is always one packet on the shelf somewhere, sold in impossibly small quantities, the organic ‘wild picked’. Everything else has been conventional. Maybe the alternative operations you are talking about supply those supposedly organic red tea bag teas at the supermaket?
It’s mostly long existing tea farmers and producers , expanding beyond their traditional green or oolong tea to produce black tea in Summer…And now the next step is looking at organic teas and ‘wild teas’. To me this is a good thing.
Like anything quality varies and you need to taste and source the best yourself, there are obviously hundreds of choices out there . Always best to get direct from the farmers and producers at harvest time. I know the tea I have been drinking recently is the real deal as I saw the whole process myself .
From talking to farmers they will tell you, especially black tea farmers, their parents generation stuff wasn’t neccessarily good. Strong bitter black tea or rough baochong or biluochun cha. Farmers would make it fairly haphazardly . It’s actually evolved to a much higher quality product and organic teas are part of that.
There is some (possibly large level of) fraud whereby people are bringing in Vietnam tea (some of high quality including dongfangmeiren…Not just low end stuff), as always buyer beware. You can request pesticide testing also. The farmers will announce their new batches are ready in Facebook seemingly following harvest so you can and look them up directly.
Believe you me I was very skeptical about mixiang hongcha. Has to be additives !
But having helped to make my own sweet smelling batch and seeing how the flavour develops I have been completely converted. Not only I was skeptical that was possible, long time older generation black tea farmers also didn’t believe it was possible. You need to change the fermentation and roasting process. The fermentation (oxidation) of black tea is also something very very interesting . The temperature rises to about 30 to 40 degrees in the middle of the batch and the colour naturally changes from green to red prior to roasting. To me that could indicate microbial action not just chemical oxidation .But the literature says it’s an enzyme driven exothermic reaction.
As I mentioned I also know at least one reputable tea trader she sources it all directly from farms here , she’s as legit as they come.
Seems like Taiwanese innovation has really elevated the quality of Taiwan teas. Do you have any recommendations for tea plantations that one can visit and tour and purchase tea? Just wandering around Pinglin and admiring some tea fields, the farmers invited us in to see the production methods, taste some tea and of course allowed us to purchase some tea. Very friendly folks.
I do like a nice high mountain oolong or green tea, along with tea making tools and processes, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. If we ever make it back to Taiwan, I plan to devote some time to learning more. Thanks for starting this thread!
Thats exactly right. Once you find one or two really passionate tea farmers, and you show genuine interest, they can open many doors, and eyes, onto the tea world.
I have a lot of respect for the newer generation of tea farmers. Mostly because they are more methodical in their ways rather than being story tellers of generations past. Its easy to see the newer guys story telling family heritage shine through into marmketing, but that can be a very welcoming aspect. As long as they are doing their job right on the ecology and biology front as well. Those guys that round out those things, i really love to sit with and hear their expertise and support their hard work.
The white tea thing is so open now though, its interesting to see it unfold. Some is .amazing, some is crap. but i hve faith that as long as the economy is strong in taiwan, the organic, healthy, environmentally responsible trend that is strong in agriculture will over come the negative people involved.
Its already proven in places like China, so an easy sell here. Taiwan is better at bringing scientific observation into the story telling. Total faith it will be a whole new trusted brand wihin. a few years
I don’t know the guys at Eco Cha but what they wrote chimes exactly with my recent experience in Nantou…It’s not just marketing bullshit and there are tea trees there that could be a hundred years old. Your chance of drinking tea from them is slim of course unless you go up there and source directly from the producers. And pay quite a lot of money, the amount being very limited . And yes they do taste quite distinctive . Another complication.This wild tea or very light tea processing method is often called ‘bai cha’ or white tea in Taiwan. But in China and worldwide white tea more refers to a very lightly processed tea buds,its a very different kind of green tea. They need better definitions and naming in the world of tea !
The purple bud tea (Taiwan wild tea species, Taiwan hybrid?) is gaining in popularity.
I read in “For all the tea in China” by Sarah Rose, that fermentation, as opposed to oxidation, is always avoided in tea production, as fermentation with the tea as substrate produces a carcinogenic substance.
I’m a microbe guy so I suspect there is some fermentation at work given the high temperatures and humidity. It may differ a lot for different tea processing methods. I suspect black tea could have some microbial fermentation due to the longer times it’s left to rest after rolling . There is also no ‘sha qing’ rapid high heating step prior to oxidation. Sha qing is usually noted as stopping enzyme activity, but it probably has an important function for sterilising the leaves also .
For the black tea that I saw processed in Yuchi there was no sha qing step. But the bulk of the ‘fermentation’ is probably enzymatic oxidation as noted. Where am I going with this ? I suspect some of the sweetness of the tea could be coming from microbial action, just a guess.
I would have to see what is being referred to as carcinogenic and the amount before making any judgement. If one looks at the components of tea we see a lot of polyphenols, aldehydes…so I’ve a feeling you could pick and choose a bit on that front. But I think it’s a valid concern because of these volatile organic components.
As far as I understand active fermentation is avoided for tea in general as the tea will simply smell musty and go off (hence that rapid sha qing, literally meaning ’ kill the leaves ’ very high temp heating step for most teas). That’s what a tea farmer told me directly. Their biggest concern is avoiding spoilage of the tea when processing it.
I believe puer tea is fermented to some degree, or at least some sort of microbial activity takes place. That’s why the raw (sheng) puer improves over time (and would probably choke you with astringency when drunk young) vs. the cooked (shou) puer which is ready to drink young and doesn’t improve with age. I think most other teas like oolong and black tea are mostly oxidized with minimal fermentation. Green tea is usually heated soon after picking to halt enzymatic activity and likely kills the microbes as well. Super interesting topic . Thanks @Brianjones