The Chens' New Garden, Light Roast

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Oolong Tea
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From Song Tea & Ceramics

Notes of purple rice, bing cherry, and camellia flower.

Oolong from Taiwan・April 2022・陳家新茶園烏龍, 輕火・Unsprayed / Semi-wild

We’ve worked alongside the Chen family for many years, following them from garden to garden across Taiwan as they adapt to the changing landscape of tea growing. They took over stewardship of their latest garden in 2021, on a plot of land many contract pickers refuse to visit. Here, the landscape serves as a challenge for cultivation, relying on near-acrobatic feats to maneuver across the small, steep plot on the slopes of Zhushan, in Nantou county, Taiwan.

The plants in Mr. and Mrs. Chen’s New Garden are truly ye fang, grown with almost no human intervention. The grove is not irrigated, fertilized, or manicured, relying entirely on the natural resources of the mountain for its success. Here the roots are free to burrow deep into the soil, leaves are peppered with bug bites (a surprisingly positive quality for a tea tree, the plant sends additional sugars to the bitten leaves to form calluses on the bites, increasing the sweetness of the harvested leaves), and fertilization, sunlight, and climate are controlled by the canopy of larger trees that shade the grove, and create natural mulch for the soil below.

As a result of these conditions, the annual yield is quite scant, but what this grove does produce is quite wonderful, and the rustic nature of this tea lends perfectly to traditional crafting. We took the finished tea to Mr. Li, one of the last traditional charcoal roasters remaining in Taiwan. He gave this 2022 harvest the lightest of roasts over open charcoal pits. The subtly of his work serves to highlight the innate character of the Chen’s wild garden, giving just enough heat to concentrate and enhance the floral aromatics of the tea. Brewed, it releases notes of purple rice, bing cherry, and camellia flower.

For a more comprehensive picture of charcoal roasting’s range, check out The Chens’ New Garden, Medium Roast.

Brew: 6 grams・150 ml・208° F・2 min

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