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2022 Honey Oolong

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Besides excelling in the style of world-class high mountain oolong and red tea, the Yung family of Shan Lin Xi in Nantou county also produce a bug-bitten tea they call 蜜香茶 Mì Xiāng chá; Honey Fragrance Tea.  This Tea Jassid nibbled tea is an adaptation from the classic Bai Hao / Oriental Beauty Oolong style hailing from the northern side of Taiwan, yet undergoes a slight baking to accent the honey fragrance, transforming vegetality into a charming nuttiness.  The leaves are rolled in the style of ball oolong, another deviation from the typical Bai Hao format.

Harvested higher in elevation and later in the season than Bai Hao, this 青心 qīng xīn cultivar harvest occurred in early July on the slopes of Shan Lin Xi at about 1000 meters in altitude.  True gao shan high mountain bug bitten tea up towards the cooler peaks is unable to occur due to the jassid's temperature range preference of 20—28°C (68—83°F).  The intentional allowance of these leafhoppers to feast on the crops ensures a lack of pesticides, as their use would surely forfeit the production.  The nibbling of the leaves engenders an early oxidation, and the tea leaves emit a special honey-fragranced terpene which is thought to attract insect predators of the leafhoppers — a kind of advanced ecological distress signal.  The leaves are agitated (浪菜 làng cài), oxidized (发酵 fāxiào) to 60-70%, fixed in a multi-step process (炒茶 chǎo chá), rolled (揉捻 róuniǎn), shaped (茶葉整型 chá yè zhěng xíng), then lightly electrically roasted during (後加工 Hòu jiāgōng) post processing.  Truly a masterful orchestration of many advanced and nuanced consecutive processes that always translates into a joyous tea session.

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Typical leaf damage done by the green leafhopper Jacobiasca formosana. The jassid can wreak massive havoc, reducing tea crop yields by 15-50%

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referred to as 浮塵子 Fúchénzǐ ("floating dust"), these leafhoppers are only 3-5mm in length (the size of the whites of your fingernail bed) yet are often mistakenly referred to as unrelated cicadas, which reach up to 15x that size.

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The Yung's lower Shan Lin Xi gardens, the site of their honey oolong production


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