06 January 2009

An expert's account on this season's Taiwanese teas

3rd place winter 08 TGY 3rd place TGY winner from this season - moderate roast

I was fortunate enough to sit down with a tea merchant for tea yesterday and talk for a few hours about his tea, and Taiwanese oolongs in general.  He confirmed that this season's teas are not as full-bodied as last winter's, but they're still good.  I tried some of his high mountain teas and found them to be of a consistent standard - good enough to buy.

The merchant told me that the problem wasn't too much moisture, but too high of temperature.  I've written before that a tea maker friend that I talked with last month said that this winter was too warm.  The higher temperature causes the tea leaves to grow faster, but doesn't allow them time to "mature" properly.  The merchant told me that most of the Qing Xin varietal of teas are picked at the 60-70 day mark, but that this year, most of them were picked closer to the 50 day mark, thus depriving the leaves of as much as nearly 30% of additional maturation time.  The result is a tea with less body.  The merchant told me that some of the high mountain teas grown in central Taiwan at the highest altitudes received slightly more maturation because the temperatures were a bit cooler than lower-level teas, like Four Seasons and Dong Ding. 

However, a friend that makes Tieguanyin told me that his tea this year is exceptional - good enough to win the 3rd place prize in the most recent judging.  I tried it and found it to be pretty good; light-moderate roasting with a fresh, crisp meadow taste and distinctive notes of fruit and smoke.  A strong and clear hui gan and a full-mouth fragrance that extends into my head.  Slightly astringent - it would be even better with a bit more roasting, but that's not the trend for any of Taiwan's award-winning teas.  I also tried a sample of an award-winning Anxi Tieguanyin from this season and it is REALLY green, like a green tea, but the tea base itself is strong.  If the producer had chosen to oxidize it more in order to do a moderate roast, this tea would turn out to be excellent.

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