Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Taiwan's Regional Teas: Oriental Beauty

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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taiwan Regional Teas: Baozhong

In early October, Stephanie Wilson and I did a tea talk on Taiwanese Oolongs at the NW Tea Festival. We covered five Oolongs: Baozhong; Oriental Beauty; Dong Ding; Tieguanyin, and Alishan High Mountain Oolong.

Stephanie is a tea lover. She is very active in the tea community in Portland and writes a tea blog: Steph's Cup of Tea. She has also traveled to many tea regions. Last year, she joined my Taiwan Tea Tour. She helped me a lot to sort through many pictures she took in Taiwan, and during our tea talk, she talked about her thoughts on each tea region of Taiwan and how she feels about each tea, while I covered the history side of each tea. We worked together as a great team!

Stephanie's take on Pinglin and Farmer Chen:

"The light oxidation brings out the tea's sweetness and floral notes. I find it to be a soft tea. The color of the liquor is beautiful and translucent green/yellow. The best word I can think of to describe this tea is "innocence." That description works for this farmer, too. Farmer Chen was a joy to be with!
I have learned that the tea farmers and tea makers in Taiwan are very deeply skilled and devoted. For example, Farmer Chen has been making tea for 42 years. His specialty is open leaf style, that's how Baozhong is traditionally made. He has limited time to process in other ways, so when he is interested in making a rolled Oolong, he sends the tea off to someone who specializes in that style."

And here is some history background for Baozhong 包種:

"Wenshan 文山 Baozhong vs. Pinglin 坪林 Baozhong? Wenshan is a district. Wenshan includes Xindian 新店, Shiding 石碇, Pinglin 坪林, Shenkeng 深坑, and Xizhi 汐止. Currently, Pinglin is the most well-known production area for Baozhong.

Baozhong was believed to be invented by Wang Yichen 王義臣. He used the Wuyi Cliff tea method to make tea, wrapping tea leaves in rectangular-shaped paper, which he stamped the tea and company's name on. Baozhong tea means "the wrapped kind of tea".

Baozhong tea was a scented tea for quite a long time. When Taiwan tea exports were impacted by the bad economy, some tea merchants learned of scented tea from Fujian and sent materials to Fujian to be scented. Merchants later learned to scent Baozhong in Taiwan. In early 1900s, scented Baozhong was a huge export tea.

A historical record states that in 1885, Wang Shuijin 王水錦 and Wei Jingshi 魏靜時 arrived in Nangang 南港 and found the soil and weather condition to be suitable for tea growing. They started to establish tea growing, and it's believed that Nangang is the birth place of Baozhong in Taiwan.

Qingxin 青心 Oolong is considered to be the best varietal for Baozhong tea. However, one can find many different varietals that are grown in the Pinglin region."

Have fun reading! In the next post, I will write about our talk on Oriental Beauty Oolong.

*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.