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Summer 2022 Ailao Oriental Beauty

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June 2022 harvest, bug-bitten high oxidation Oolong tea

Easy on the body, umami taste and exquisite perfume.

An excellent comfort tea for a relaxed session.


 
 
oriental beauty oolong

 

The fragrance of this tea fills the room as soon as you brew it. The leaves look like a black tea, you could mistake them for a Darjeeling second flush. But the liquor is not as dark as a black tea, this is because it is instead a highly oxidized oolong. In the first couple of brews, the mouthfeel is very interesting, you get a mix of umami, light bitterness and acidity which makes the soup feel highly mineral. You'll crave for another cup. Yet, the mouthfeel is light, it is not a taxing tea on the body and it will be particularly suitable as an evening tea, or on hungover days, just like a white tea. After a couple of brews, the umami taste will vanish, but the fragrance will keep being extracted from the leaves for many infusions. Alternatively to Gongfu-style, you can brew this tea grandpa-style, in a mug or thermos bottle, it keeps delivering well with this method.
 
oriental beauty tea
 

Mr Huang is a Taiwanese producer established in Ailao Mountain since 1994. In the middle of Yunnan, he cultivate qingxin oolong gardens and processes high mountain oolong tea in his factory.

ailao oolong gardens

 

After the bulk of the harvest in May, some shoots grow again in a second flush. The gardens are invaded by Jacobiasca Formosana, a tiny jassid that thrives in the gardens and loves to puncture the tea leaves. This mild stress provokes a reaction in the tea trees. The holes in the leaves make the trees vulnerable to viruses. As a reaction, the plants will suicide the cells around the puncture. The polyphenols contained in the cells will oxidize and give a special fragrance to the tea. It is a process comparable to a shaking step, but achieved by the insects in the gardens instead of in the factory.

The processing of this tea is similar to high mountain oolong, although faster since the tea is not rolled into pearls. It is withered to soften the leaves, shaken briefly to complete the work of the jassids, left to rest for a long time to reach a high level of oxidation, cooked in a kill-green machine to stop the oxidation, rolled briefly to extract juice and give a basic shape to the leaves, and finally dried with hot air.

 

This tea is not available every year, as it requires a large number of jassids to thrive in the fields. Since Mr Huang's plantations are organic and have a good overall biodiversity, he cannot control when the jassids will come.

Non-organic gardens can more easily allow the jassids to thrive by spraying pesticides after the first harvest, clearing the way from natural predators for the jassids to colonize the fields.