All posts tagged Taiwan

Dr. Oolong talks Baked Oolongs

Wanting to build upon your tea experience?

Baked oolongs are a fantastic way to experience the wonder and flavor of oolong tea.  The baking process produces a rich, deep flavor.  Not only does it enhance the floral and fruit notes of a fine oolong, but it also creates a nutty, toasty taste that is unmistakable.

The baking process takes place at varying temperatures and varying times to produce a tea that is particular to the tea master’s style. The process can take several hours up to several days. One interesting and little known fact is that during this process, large amounts of caffeine is baked right out of the leaves! Dr. Oolong has seen first hand the stalagmites hanging from the ceilings in baking rooms. Pure caffeine!

Some great baked oolongs you may be familiar with include Royal Courtesan (gui fei), Ti Quan Yin, and Tung Ting. All are known for their depth of flavor and ability to hold up well to multiple steepings.  The time and attention that goes into making oolong teas is nothing short of impressive. Here at Zhi, we are truly grateful to the Taiwan tradition of care and creativity in giving the world some of the most remarkable teas on the planet!

The vast majority of the tea baking is only done in Taiwan under the supervision of, or by, the tea master himself. Only recently have a few handful of ambitious oolong fanatics have undertaken the challenge to bake oolongs in the United States. Solid training is necessary to do this, along with much trial and error. The advantage of this is the ability to create custom batches of tea. (Can you tell where this is going? :)

Yes, Dr. Oolong has thrown his tea leaves in the proverbial fire and has started baking oolongs in Austin. Stay tuned for small artisan custom batches of baked oolongs from Zhi Tea, coming soon.

 

Brandy Oolong

oolong tea

Happy spring, tea lovers.

Today, I wanted to talk about Brandy Oolong.

Known for its unique flavor profile and creamy body, Brandy Oolong is quickly growing in popularity among oolong lovers.

Unique toTaiwan, this heavily oxidized oolong could initially be mistaken for a black tea; but at about 85% oxidation, it indeed is an oolong. Although Brandy Oolong can come from several different cultivars or varietals, the resulting liquor is dark amber with aromatic notes of roasted sugar and stone fruit. We love the mouth feel on this tea! It is so smooth and complex and has a great sweet finish. Some people experience a subtle camphor taste as well.

The Taiwanese are quite creative and diligent in creating new teas. One particular cultivar known as Ruby 18 (which is great for creating Brandy Oolong) took decades in testing before being released to farmers for planting. It was worth the wait. Ruby 18 is a unique hybrid of anassam and an indigenous varietal.

Brandy Oolongs, while still pretty rare in the US, can be a great alternative to black teas.  Zhi is quite excited about this new tea choice in the growing stable of Taiwanese Oolongs.

See “Jeffrey’s Personal Stash” if you are curious and find all Zhi’s ”Oolongs” at zhitea.com.

The Very Patient Old Man Dong Ding

Dr. OolongHowdy folks.  Dr. Oolong here.

Having recently arrived back from a most pleasant journey to Taiwan, I can safely say I am a changed man. The person I was when I set out to explore the world of Taiwanese teas, on the ground, at source, is no longer with us. The man that emerged is even more in awe and wonder of the beauty and mystery of Taiwanese teas and the Taiwanese people.

The first thing that really struck me was the incredible amount of work that goes into making a batch of oolong tea. Wow! Having participated first hand in several steps in the making of the tea itself, I can say my respect for the tea workers is quite high! It is a hard job!

I was lucky enough to share numerous tea cupping/tastings during my three weeks in Taiwan. I sampled various cultivars and methods of production, from low oxidized to highly oxidized, and unbaked, to strongly baked. Aside from my personal preferences, several things stood out to me. The first of which is the concept of ‘patience’.

The more patient a tea measures the number of steeps one can get out of it. This is one of many ways to assess quality and value in an oolong tea. Regardless if you steep Western-style (small amount of leaf to water) or Eastern-style (large amount of leaf to water), or somewhere in between, the number of flavorful and aromatic steeps of a given oolong is a fantastic indicator of its inherent quality.

One of the simple treasures I was fortunate enough to acquire on this trip was a small amount of a Tung Ting made in the traditional fashion: organically, hand picked, and strong roasted. It is called Old Man Tung Tung. It is named after the gentleman who has been making this tea since he was a teenager; he is now in his 70’s! The tea is a fantastic example of a tea with tons of patience. We steeped about ten grams in a ten ounce yi xing pot last weekend and had to stop after 15 steeps!

Experiencing the flavors unfold with each steep is a remarkable experience and one that should not be missed. We hope you share in the journey with us too! Stay tuned for more articles on amber oolongs and have a great day!

Tea for the Tillerman

Tea for the Tillerman

Just arrived 6000 ft Ali shan. Some seriously windy roads, a great driver, and tired from a good long day. We visited another tea research station in yuchi for a tea cupping of some newly released cultivars. Delicious highly oxidized, not quite black teas that Thomas has dubbed Brandy oolong.

Then we visited dong-feng farm near Sun Moon Lake for some muscle building tea rolling. We were each given a basket of freshly withered leaves to roll. Rolling breaks the cells of the plant, releasing the juices and prepared the leaves for drying. It took about 45 minutes to get them to the proper condition. The aroma coming off the leaves from this process was amazing: very camphor and cinnamon like.

After our workout, we climbed up the mountain in our little van, as we told hair-raising stories of other mountain bus trips we had survived. This is a really fun group! Tomorrow is an 18 hour jade oolong manufacturing day. I absolutely love it here. Plus, I got some great video of an organic tea garden that butted up against a sheer half mile drop off the mountain. Can’t wait to share it with you when I get back to Austin!

-Dr. Oolong

Dr. Oolong’s Travel Blog: Hello from Taiwan!

After two lovely and surprisingly relaxing days in old Taipai, I am up at the crack of dawn for a day trip to Wenshan. I am amazed by how small this country is; the mountain is only an hour away! It has seemed so far, but now that I’ve arrived, I feel like I’m already in the tea fields.

I’m here to take part in the Taiwan Oolongs Study Tour (TOST). It is an intensive week-long tea sojourn, which includes visits to Taiwan’s tea gardens, factories, museums, tea-houses, and farms. We’ll visit with farmers, scientists, and tea enthusiasts along the way. Every possible minute is packed with educational tea information, and I can’t wait!Last night at the TOST welcoming event, I got to meet the heavy hitters in the Taiwan tea business.

There was over 200 years of combined experience in the room. And these guys are funny! I felt like I was hanging out with the Rolling Stones of tea. These guys are living proof that drinking tea keeps you young. One tea master, whom I will call “Mick,” is 74 and has more energy than most 30 year olds I know.On the agenda this week is a visit to TRES (the Taiwan research and extension station), the won Wong tea factory, and yilan San tai tea farm for hands-on tea processing. I get to pluck my first tea leaves!  And, of course, I’m looking forward to new friends, lots of tea, and tons of amazing food. This week is going to rock. Now for a pot of tea at 5 a.m. to “Start Me Up”. Couldn’t resist ;)

-Dr. Oolong