Here is the talk that Stephanie and I gave on Oriental Beauty Oolong from NW Tea Festival.
Stephanie's take-on on Oriental Beauty:
"Oriental Beauty was my 'gateway tea' - meaning it was the tea that helped me get beyond simply drinking tea, and move into truly appreciating tea and studying the leaf. Bai Hao Oolong, or Oriental Beauty, is the tea that made me pay attention.
"I love everything about Oriental Beauty... its romantic story (most likely a fable), the multi-color of the dry leaves (5 colors can be found in a quality tea), the lovely color of the liquor, the aroma, the taste and the aftertaste. It's a very sensual tea.
"This heavily oxidized tea has a very unique and distinctive flavor profile. I find it to be sweet like stone fruit with a honey aroma. It's a rich tea with no bitterness - that's why I think it's a great tea to use when introducing someone to Oolong. This tea is also forgiving to brew."
And here are some facts about Oriental Beauty 東方美人 from me:
"Oriental Beauty is also known as: Bai Hao Oolong 白毫烏龍; Formosa Oolong 福爾摩沙; Champagne Oolong 香檳烏龍, and Pon Hong Te 椪風茶. The most famous places for production of Oriental Beauty are E-Mei 峨眉 and Bei Pu 北埔 of Xin Zhu County 新竹. A lot of Hakka-minority people live in these areas.
"Back in 1893, Taiwan exported around 9,630,000 kilos of tea. The United States used to have very high demand for Oriental Beauty. According to Dan Shui 淡水 customs records from 1881, tea exports to the United States alone accounted for over 90% of Taiwan total tea exports.
The highest grade of Taiwan's exported tea at that time was Oriental Beauty, the "Extra Choice" grade. It's known that many tea varietals and tea making techniques originated from China's Fujian province. However, there is some debate in Taiwan over Oriental Beauty's history, as some people don't believe the tea's production technique originally came from China. Instead, people believe that the technique was invented in Taiwan by accident (a coincidental and positive effect due to the special growing environment in Xin Zhu and Miao Li Counties).
"A unique aspect of Oriental Beauty Oolong is that it has to be "attacked" by Tea Jassids 小綠葉蟬 (an insect that some also call the Green Leafcutter), which show up around early June. Tea leaves that are attacked by Tea Jassids produce a particular "honey" and "ripe fruit" flavor. Oriental Beauty, like other Oolongs, go through the stages of: "picking 採摘;" "outdoor oxidation 室外萎凋;" "indoor oxidation 室內萎凋;" "kill green 殺菁;" "covering leaves with damp cloths 靜置回潤" (this step is the major difference between Oriental Beauty and other Taiwanese Oolongs); "rolling 揉捻;" "loosening up the leaves 解塊," and "drying 乾燥."
The key tea varietal for producing Oriental Beauty is Qing Xin Da Pa 青心大冇.
*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.