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Traditional Hakka Eastern Beauty Oolong

$32.00$150.00

東方美人 Dōng Fāng Měi Rén Eastern Beauty is considered a world renowned ‘champagne’ of teas, not only as a darling connoisseur oolong rich in unique cultural and ecological intrigue, but also for the advanced processing it undergoes — even more steps than the already complex genre of Oolong production it is classified under; each elaborate step acutely timed and executed. Even before human intervention, Eastern Beauty weaves an impressive and distinctive narrative: a tea deliberately allowed to be bug-bitten, farmers must manage and time their harvests to preserve a complex, defensive photochemistry the plant elicits to eventually craft an exquisite tea rich in deep, honey-like flavors and aromas.

We are very proud to present 4 top grade variations of Eastern Beauty Oolong, made in Hsinchu County, in the traditional style by one of the core Hakka families responsible for this tea's rise to fame.  Each variation a delight unto itself, yet together providing a full spectrum experience of one of the world's most complex, luxury teas.  In a market that sees many, many imitations downstream (some better than others), we are privileged to have made it to the headwaters to procure the genuine article.  Classic summer-harvested versions have been made available as well as less orthodox winter harvested teas, with each season available in two respective vintages, aged (2016) and unaged (2022).  Each pouch is 25 grams each.

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Before continuing, we recommend you read the comprehensive breakdown of the straight magic that goes into the production (as well as the high costs) of genuine top grade Eastern Beauty (in addition to a primer on how to age it and other oolongs) in our blog here.

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Generation #4 in this lineage Gǔ Chéng Qián

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hanging with his son, generation #5 Gǔ Yì Píng, who now entirely oversees production

 

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浮塵子 Fúchénzǐ, the green leafhopper jassid responsible for all the fuss, about 3-5 mm in size

 

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The Gu family's 60-80 year old 青心大冇 Qīng xīn dà mǎo cultivar gardens outside Beipu, at about 400 meters in elevation

 

Summer 2016 Eastern Beauty

Summer 2016 tea

The Gu family's summer tea

Like most of the far eastern tea world, the Hakka people refer to their seasons according to the 農曆 Nónglì Chinese Calendar, a traditional lunisolar seasonal timetracker often used as an agricultural calendar.  This is important to note as a westerner used to naming seasons based on a Gregorian calendar as our timeframes for the seasons are slightly different.  The Gu family believes the best time to harvest their summer tea is under the solar term 芒種 Mángzhòng, generally taking place between June 6th and June 21st.

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Historically, summer has been the defining season for Eastern Beauty Oolong production.  This time of year sees the most insect activity, in turn producing the most honey aroma in the tea.  This factor, combined with the abundance of moisture brought in by monsoon season produces tea with 甜水 tián shuǐ "sweet water" according to young master Gu.  Besides this being the iconic time of year for Eastern Beauty production, and the inverse relationship to honey-fragrance/presence of downy hairs and crop yield, the tea pickers must be paid higher wages during this very hot — and yes, buggy — time of year, also why summer tea is priced so high.

The abundance of ambient moisture in the environment during this time of year also demands skills, knowledge, and extra attention to detail during one of the most critical steps of tea production — withering.  If moisture in the leaves are not properly shepherded out through a myriad of gentle agitation 浪青 làng jīng and withering steps during this time, the entire batch is ruined. The importance of this step cannot be understated.

Proper summer tea is considered the premier experience of Eastern Beauty.  Unaged versions are exceptional and classic; buoyant and crisp, while matured versions often develop notes of dark fruitleather and a deepened aromatic profile.

 

The Gu family's winter tea

Winter tea is the Gu family’s second favorite season next to summer for Eastern Beauty production because of its naturally complex aromatics.  Winter harvest usually takes place under the solar term of 立冬 Lìdōng between the dates of November 7 and November 22nd.  At an elevation of 300 meters just outside of Beipu on the northwest corner of this subtropical island, this time of year doesn’t get cold enough to dissuade Fuchenzi from continuing to feed on the tea gardens, and therefore bug-bitten tea is still able to be made during this time.  After the wet season and as the temperature drops to an average of 10 degrees below summer time’s, the growth rate of the tea slows down, producing more natural sweetness, thicker texture, and richer aroma. Since the tea leaves’ cell walls are more robust from their slowed growth, more advanced agitation is needed, a slight bit more oxidation occurs, and the leaves are able to endure a bit more of a finishing roast than its summer counterpart.

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These different growing conditions that allow for variations in processing technique set the tea’s maturing trajectory upon a naturally different direction as well.  Thus, matured as well as newer versions of winter Eastern Beauty present to us compelling deviations from the classic summer styles, at a bit more of an accessible price point.

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Check out our deep dive Eastern Beauty blog post here, where we detail its fascinating phytochemistry and production steps, how maturing it through aging is achieved (it's different than pu'er and whites), and more.

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