This is a very special tea and we here at Tea Trekker are very excited to be able to offer it again in 2021 for our tea enthusiast customers.
This tea farm, on Chi Lai Shan (Qilai Shan) in the Hehuanshan, is located at one of the highest points of the Central Mountains of Taiwan. It is also among the highest altitudes at which tea is grown in Taiwan. This is a mountain range that is quite popular with hikers and outdoors enthusiasts, and one of the few locations on Taiwan in which snow will fall during most winters (the peaks rise to almost 12,000 feet). This popular recreation area is located on the border of two counties: Nantou and Hualien counties; however, in tea terms we think of this place as being in Nantou County because it is in tea-famous Nantou County that these remote tea farms are located.
There are only a handful of tea gardens on Taiwan that produce tea at this high an elevation (it is not unusual for tea gardens in this area to be at or above 5,000 feet in altitude, and gao shan gardens are at an even higher altitude). It is remarkable that Tea Trekker has been able to procure and offer this very delicious and limited-quantity oolong. Because of environmental preservation concerns and landslide issues in this area, the amount of tea offered from Hehuanshan is quite limited each tea season.
Tea Trekker’s spring pluck Chi Lai Shan (Qilai Shan) is lightly roasted, which keeps the aromatics high and bright, and gives the tea liquor clarity and a lovely pale silver/green color in the cup. This spring tea has an assertive but friendly, subtly sweet, honeyed fragrance and very full body reminiscent of ripe melon. It is the ‘buttery’ mouthfeel and deep body that attracts us most to this oolong, in a similar way that we admire Jin Xuan oolong. It is flavorsome and satisfying in the cup without being bossy or overly floral. The flavors that one notes are melon and the simple astringency of pear, which is very thirst-quenching.
These characteristics are present in this year’s 2021 harvest tea, even with the dry conditions and reduced harvest (especially from this high altitude). We are very lucky to have any tea at all from this garden in 2021, and are ecstatic that our tea farmer was able to manufacture such an incredible lot for us. The leaf is fairly large (although slightly smaller than normal) and a bit chewed, in the style of Jin Xuan. The leaf can and should be steeped many times to pull all the flavor out of the leaf, so it is a great oolong for steeping either in a teapot or by the single cup.
The tea was rolled and roasted three separate times and given a three day rest in between each roasting, for a total of 10 days in process. The water content of the leaf has been brought down to the traditional less than 3% (not too difficult this year!) which insures that the tea will stay flavorsome and aromatic well into 2023.
All in all, Tea Trekker’s Chi Lai oolong is a treat and we are happy to have it in our selection.
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