Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Organic Winter Shibi Oolong tea

My friend Nicole (the same generous, globe-trekking tea lover that gave me the Indonesian Teh, Ba Bao Cha and Tibetan tea) has recently started her own tea business called Green Leaf Tea Company.

Today I'm going to review one of her new offerings called Organic Winter 2010 Shibi (石壁) Oolong tea.

Shibi is a small township in Taiwan's Yunlin (雲林) county where the organic tea farm is located. Last year Nicole spent a little time working on this farm, so it could be said that she helped care for the plants whose leaves I'm now drinking!

Here is what Nicole says about this tea: "The small family owned farm is nestled in the mountains near Alishan near the Gu-keng township of Yu lin county. The tea is grown at 1,500 meters, and is Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System Certified (TAP - Taiwanese certification). Their farm does not have organic certification because of the cost (because are a small family owned farm many can't afford the certification). However, she does follow organic practices and uses no pesticides (which I can personally attest to). This farm is the only one in her immediate tea growing area, and thus is trying to set the example to her neighbors." I'm hoping to learn more about all of this and read some of her travel stories when she begins writing her own tea blog.

The dry leaves are vibrant, green, and beautiful with lots of long fat stems. They have a delicate floral pine forest aroma.

I was lucky enough to be given about an ounce of this tea, so I had a little wiggle room to experiment with different brewing methods. What I came to learn, at least for my own taste, is that this tea likes it hot. First I tried it in a bowl with a spoon and it was awesome with lots of fragrance, then I tried it in a glass gaiwan but it was lackluster and I just couldn't coax out all of the aroma or the mouth-feel that I wanted. Then I tried it in a small thick clay teapot set within a bowl of hot water with boiling hot water used for every pour, and it was truly transcendent. It makes since to me that this tea would like such hot water because these leaves are so thick and strong.

I poured 8 wonderful infusions each with a nice, complex, heady, floral, aroma. My tasting notes included: sugarcane, rose, bamboo, coconut milk and nectar. I really enjoyed this tea and I'm still enjoying its aftertaste hours later.

Nicole is currently selling this tea ($6 for 25 grams) and welcomes any orders or queries at

She also gave me a sample of a Summer 2010 Hong Cha made on the same tea farm which I'll be reviewing soon!

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