This is a charcoal-roasted version (Hong Pei) of Tung Ting from the 2021 Spring harvest. This tea has a deeper, more penetrating roasted taste and style, but is not heavy in any way. It is a very elegant tea that is easy to drink and perfect for a cool evening anytime of year, crisp fall days and nights, and early winter. Consider comparison tasting this to our Spring Harvest Tung Ting Tan Pei for a tasty lesson in how different roasting styles affect flavor in the cup.
Tung Ting is a mid-level, mountain-grown tea that is most well-known as a jade oolong – a semiball rolled green-style oolong. As such, it has a very appealing creamy, buttery texture in the cup. It is a very popular choice with Chinese tea drinkers who appreciate its easy-to-drink, rich mouth-feel and sweet flavor.
A Tung Ting oolong cannot be classified as a gao shan, because they are grown at a lower altitude than the requirement for that designation. But that is excellent for everyone involved, because much great tea is grown below the minimum altitude for gao shan, and so, as a very famous tea of Taiwan, Tung Ting can be grown in a larger quantity and at a reduced price. There is far more acreage available ‘down-mountain’, and the weather is not as finicky.
Our charcoal-roasted Tung Ting Hong Pei is a medium-roast Hong Pei (charcoal-roasting can be light, medium or heavy) which builds on the delicious floral notes associated with green-style Tung Ting but features the added dimension of flavor imparted by the traditional charcoal-roasting.
Charcoal roasted oolongs are not common outside of Taiwan, as Westerners tend to prefer the more modern, green-style Tung Ting. But this tea represents how this tea was historically made and drunk in Taiwan. During manufacture the leaf is oxidized a bit more to better accept the charcoal-roasting, and because the level of charcoal-roasting is medium, the end result is clean and crisp.
Our Tung Ting Hong Pei is made by by our esteemed Tung Ting tea master, Mr. Lin. After roasting, Mr. Lin sets the finished tea outdoors to ‘breath’ and mellow before bringing the tea to market. He also believes that storing it for a period of time before drinking it has merit.
Do not confuse the Hong Pei style of roasting with the heavier, more austere roast levels of classic charcoal-roasted Fujian strip-style oolongs from Mainland China. Hong Pei roasting is not as deeply roasted as that, and is more subtle. It embraces the natural flavor and character of the leaf and allows both taste qualities to come through harmoniously in the cup.
Instead of a heavy, dry woodsy-ness, this type of roasting emphasizes the natural sweetness of the tea by caramelizing some of the sugars in the leaf. It’s a sweet-in-the-mouth roasting rather than a dry-in-the-mouth roasting. There is a reason for why charcoal-roasting became the standard production method for oolongs a long time ago. Roasting stabilizes the leaf for long-term keeping and increases mellowness and complexity in the tea. Chinese tea drinkers appreciate roasted oolongs for their warming, intricate, layered flavors.
The primary appeal of the Taiwanese Hong Pei style of charcoal-roasting is how clean it is. When coupled with the right leaf tea, as this is, the effect is magical. A unique taste in a very well-made tea.
Providing us with our Hong Pei Oolong this year was quite difficult due to the totally un-cooperative weather this winter and fall, but Mr Lin rose to the challenge, and we are so glad that he did. Our 2021 lot is very special.