Shihmen Wild "Golden Gate" Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea - Winter 2020Taiwan Sourcing
We thought this plantation could only be harvested once per year, so you could not imagine how surprised and happy we were when we heard from grandma Xie that the tea trees had sprouted in such cold weather!
Shihmen is the northmost place that grows tea in Taiwan, and it is famous for a varietal called "Hard Twig Red Heart." Although this varietal bears the same term "red heart" in its name like the Tie Guan Yin varietal called "Red Heart Twisted Tail Peach"(紅心歪尾桃), this varietal is completely different from it. This factor became quite noticeable after several hours into the indoor withering as we experienced last time we processed this varietal. We noticed it bears very similar characteristics to the #21 Rhythm varietal used to make black teas such as our "Nectar Melody".
Having a better understanding of this varietal, we are able to "communicate" with it even better this season. We were fortunate enough to have our good friend Mr. Chen at Beipu to come help us with the final stage of processing, allowing our hardworking grandma to have some rest. The tea is less "black tea" like compared to the previous version due to our better understanding of its core character. As a result, "Golden Gate" became the name for this magnificent tea.
We are again grateful towards grandma Xie for allowing us to process a living fossil like this. She is planning to plant more tea trees for us in the spring of 2021, and let's hope Shihmen will return to its glory days with the reviving of teas like this.
Harvest: Winter 2020 / 冬 貳零貳零
Varietal: Hard Twig Red Heart / 硬枝紅心
Elevation: 100 M / 壹佰 公尺
Region: Shihmen / 石門
Oxidation Level: 35% / 分之 卅伍
Roast Level: 2 / 貳 分
I had to toss everything I thought I knew about Tie Guan Yin out the window after a few sessions. It's not green and it's not heavily roasted either. This isn't Anxi Tie Guan Yin, nor is it Muzha. What it is is a behemoth of a tea that has me convinced I could serve it to someone who claims to detest Tie Guan Yin and blow their mind. It's that good. Sweetness sticks to my palate with every sip of the thick, oily tea soup. What an awesome mouthfeel! It's a very refined tea, very moreish and also rather potent.
Lighter than its previous version but just as beguiling. Aroma is invitingly buoyant and doesn’t flutter away. The effect is rather quickly “entering tranquility” 入靜. It feels something more like the tea drinking you. It maintains an interesting balance between sweet-sour and astringent to good effect and taste. It has some very complex puerh-like layers of effect and flavor. Sometimes herbaceous sometimes fruity, but always quite potent. Using 5 grams in a 100ml gaiwan was a beautiful and deep experience.
This was the "range" an old dog was aiming for at the first time, but this varietal was too new for all of us. With better understanding we are now able to know the transformation more thoroughly to create a more oolong-like oolong tea. Compared to the fruity character of "Stone Gate" from the first time, this "Golden Gate" carries a subtle floral note with lighter context. Again this is a powerful tea thanks to the energy of the land, and an old dog got stoned by it like last time did.