I recently returned from a fascinating four-week tea tour of Taiwan where I visited tea masters, renewed relationships with our outstanding tea growers and searched for new and interesting varieties of tea. During my tea trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to show American tea drinkers that the value of high quality tea extends well beyond its health benefits. Fine tea is about the pleasure of the experience. It is delightful aromas, subtle nuances of flavor and a lingering feeling of well-being that lasts long after the teapot is empty.
If you're like me, when you experience a truly fine tea, you want to know more about it. I have extensively researched premium Oriental Beauty Oolong tea, and I would like to tell you about my personal journey of discovery. I have found that Oriental Beauty Oolong is one of the most rare and expensive teas in the world. Recently, one pound of gold medal winning Oriental Beauty Oolong was sold for $26,000 at a rare tea auction in Taiwan. That is $1,625 per ounce which is more than the current price of gold!
Similar to a rare wine, there are a variety of factors that determine the value of tea. Scarcity certainly has an effect, as well as the reputation of the producer, the terroir and even the prevailing weather during the year the tea was produced. In this case, the reputation of the tea tasting competition was key. Also important was the extremely limited amount of tea produced for the competition and the ability to verify its authenticity.
Oriental Beauty Oolong is also called Champagne Oolong or Bai Hao Oolong. Bai Hao means “white tip” in Chinese and refers to the furry tender white buds that are picked along with the top two leaves. The fuzz on these white tips is only present in the best Oriental Beauty. This fuzz can sometimes rub off in the package and appear as a fine white dust. This “dust” is not contamination, rather it is an indicator of high quality tea!
Oriental Beauty originates from northern Taiwan. The ideal climate for this type of tea is hot, humid and foggy. In the summer the leaves are nibbled by an insect called the tea green leafhopper. This leafhopper is only about 3mm long and thinner than a sewing needle. The leafhopper's tiny bites cause the tea leaves to release enzymes that result in the unique honey notes that are characteristic of Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea.
Most teas are harvested three to six times a year. However, the best grades of Oriental Beauty Oolong are harvested only once a year. This harvest happens in mid-summer when the weather is hot and humid and tea green leafhoppers are plentiful. Tea artisans say that Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea is nature's own gift from the tea green leafhoppers.
While the mid-summer weather is perfect for the leafhopper, it can be a harsh environment for the people who pick the tea. High quality Oriental Beauty Oolong is never machine picked, and tea pickers need to have the knowledge and experience to know which leaves will make the best tea. It takes about twenty two thousand young shoots (roughly seven pounds of freshly-picked tea leaves) to make one pound of finished Oriental Beauty Oolong tea. Experienced pickers can only harvest enough shoots in one day to make between one and three pounds of tea.
After the labor-intensive process of collecting only the very best fresh tea leaves, the rest of the tea making process must be performed with skill and attention to detail. Every step of process—withering, bruising, resting, rolling, drying, and roasting—has to be done perfectly in order to create the right balance of aroma, body and flavor as well as the delicate aftertaste that lingers on the tongue.
Every tea artisan has unique methods that bring out the best from their top quality tea leaves. When it comes to producing fine tea, it is about both art and skill. The artisan must know the right techniques to enhance the flavors provided by the soil, the climate, the cultivar and myriad other factors. But skill alone is not enough, it takes true artistry to give the tea its soul, its authenticity, its raison d'être. And the result is that each artisan-produced Oriental Beauty Oolong has its own profoundly unique combination of flavors and aromas.
This is why top quality Oriental Beauty Oolong is one of the most sought-after varieties of high-end tea. Wang and Dickerson is proud to offer a rare top grade Oriental Beauty Oolong to our tea enthusiasts in America. It is 70% oxidized which gives it a medium body, a silky smooth flavor and an elegant floral fragrance. The tea leaves exhibit a beautiful mixture of robust browns, rich reds and delicate greens with silvery white tips. The taste experience is a sophisticated balance of honey-like sweetness and hints of ripe apricot. This unique flavor profile is deeply linked to its terroir and to its artisan producer.
I hope you have enjoyed reading our first newsletter and I would love to hear your feedback! Feel free to leave comments and I will read your message.