High Mountain Series
Exquisite Alishan Oolong Tea
During each tea-making season, it is as though a period of upheaval. At this moment, if there is no experienced fighting commander, that is the tea maker responsible for the withering process to control the overall situation, it is almost impossible to make good tea.
A Jishi is considered an expert in this area. From capturing the right moment to start plucking tea leaves and monitor the climate, sometimes when a fleet of mountainous mist drifts across the sky, he would know that it will rain 30 minutes later and the tea leaves collection must be quickened. Thereafter, he will make a judgement on the withering time according to the status of the collected fresh green leaves, the temperature and humidity of the weather on the day. If the water content in the fresh green leaves is high, then they will leave them under sunshine for a little longer; the processes of tossing and fixing (fixing is the correct word to use, I’ve verified it from various sources) the green tea leaves must allow them to ferment and dry in the right proportions. If the green tea leaves are too moist, the quality will be affected; likewise, it also must not be too dry else the fermentation will be affected. And it must allow the aromas to maintain at the peak level. All these would require cumulative and robust experiences … … … “The sky is a living creature; the green tea leaves are likewise”, he said. “Many tea farmers have been asking me how to make good tea? This type of work has no SOP ~ You must use your heart to feel the condition of each moment so that you can make the best judgement.” It is never sufficient to have experiences; the key is to use the heart.
The tea leaves grown by ourselves can be assured of the final quality in the overall tea-making process. However, Song Yi also collects tea leaves from other vendors. The tea explorer standing in the frontline is particularly important in this moment. If the quality of the fresh green leaves supplied by the tea farmers is inferior, it does not matter how good the tea roaster is, even with her outstanding skills and techniques, it is rather impossible to bring those inferior tea leaves back to life.
Hsu Mengyi, the tea explorer that stations at the tea cultivation regions, is very familiar with the conditions of each tea plantation over the mountains. “I run about every day. Even from the start of the supervisory work, I constantly test the tea during the tea-making process and repeatedly ensure that the quality of the tea leaves is up on par to the requirements prior to collecting those tea leaves.” Many tea brands are using the contractual basis. Consequently, it is extremely hard to ensure consistent quality among different batches of tea leaves. Especially the fresh green tea leaves which are sold by weight. The higher the water content, the heavier it will be and thus, a higher selling price. Nevertheless, if the degree of dryness is inadequate, the tea leaves will be easily oxidized and the quality changes. Although the aromatic scent is abundant just after roasting, the speed at which the fragrance scatters away and disappears is also very alarming. “There are many tea brands that do not store their tea leaves after harvesting. Moreover, they also do not refine the collected tea leaves and just sell them away in the form of fresh green tea leaves. Most often when we take a sip, we would shake our heads, finding it rather wasteful for such premium tea leaves.” Finding premium tea leaves is still insufficient. To turn them into really good tea, it still requires to store them for fermentation coupled with the skillful techniques of the tea roaster.