Charcoal Roasted Shengtai Oolong - Taiwan Oolong Tea - Fall 2011
Growing Area: Jenai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan
Elevation: +/-3,300-4,000 ft (1,000-1,200 M)
Varietal: Qing Xin (Green Heart)
Roasting: medium high charcoal roast
Vacuum Sealed in 50 g Portions
Note: This tea used to be sold under the name “Lao Tai Di Qing Xin.” After some discussions with the growers at the end of last year, I realized that I had the information about this tea mixed up with the old tree “Lao Cong Shan Cha” teas that we started selling in late 2011, which are produced from native Taiwanese tea varietals that were planted in 1925. The Qing Xin Oolong plants this tea comes from were planted in the 80’s, so they technically aren’t old plantation (Lao Tai Di) tea plants. This is why the name changed this year, but this tea comes from the exact same plants and was produced in the same way as last year’s tea. I apologize for the confusion on my part.
This particular tea was produced entirely from Qing Xin or “green heart” cultivar tea plants planted in the late 1980’s in Jenai Township of Nantou County, Taiwan. They have been allowed to grow in a semi-wild/natural manner for the past decade or so, so we are simply calling this tea “Shengtai” (Trad Char: 生態; Pinyin: shēngtài; English: ecological) Oolong.
The harvesting, processing & roasting of this tea was done with extreme care. It was picked entirely by hand and was allowed wither in the sun and/or indoors depending on the weather until some moisture evaporate out of the leaves & they become pliable. At this point, the leaves were placed on bamboo trays and periodically shaken/tossed to bruise their edges and start the partial oxidation process common to all Oolong teas. In this instance, the tea master allowed these leaves to oxidize approximately 30% of the way before it was quickly fired to stop the oxidation process. After the firing, the leaves were placed in cloth bags and rolled in mechanical rolling machines to distribute all the “juice” evenly throughout the leaves and start the process of forming them into their characteristic ball shape. The tea was then dried and made ready for the final step: roasting.
The roasting of this tea was done in the traditional manner using glowing (not flaming) charcoal that was covered with ash (usually from burned rice hulls) to prevent flare ups and smokey tastes from penetrating & overpowering the tea flavor. The roast is what I would term a “medium-high” roast, and the producer refers to this tea as 60% roasted.
Flavor and Aroma:
The flavor and aroma of this tea is a balance between the distinctively “charcoal roasted” roasty-toasty flavor profile with the other distinctive flavors of dried stone fruit and maybe just a hint of tropical fruit flavor.
As usual, I suggest Gong Fu style preparation with this tea. To start out, try using 7 grams of leaf in a 150 ml gaiwan or teapot. Use water just under a boil and a series of short steepings. I also recommend using aroma cups with this tea, but, if you don’t have aroma cups, be sure to enjoy the surprisingly sweet aroma that clings to the walls of your drinking cup after drinking this tea.
For Western-style steeping, start with 1-2 tsp of leaf per cup. Use water under a boil (195 degrees F), and steep for 3-5 minutes. Adjust the amount of leaf, steeping time, and water temperature used according to your preference.