Know Your Tea: Taiwan Beauty Oolong

At the turn of the last century, a tea farmer from the center of Taiwan decided to take his bug bitten tea to the market anyway, since his livelihood depended on it. Other villagers laughed at this farmer, as his tea was rather runted and undergrown and ugly, for once the bugs have bitten the leaves, they stop growing.

Undaunted, the farmer went to market, and to his surprise, his tea received raved reviews, and completely sold itself out. Beside himself with joy, he runs back with this victorious announcement, only to find that the other villagers did not believe a word he said. Tall tale, they said, ‘Pong Feng’ cha was what they called it, meaning a puffed up, B.S. tea. To this day, the locals call what is now Taiwan Beauty, one of the most absolutely unique teas in the world, ‘Pong Feng Cha’.  It is now the most expensive tea in Taiwan. The confluence of Green Leaf Hoppers chewing on the tiny tea buds, growing in extremely low elevations, in hot humid weather, in a wild jungle full of centipedes and praying mantis and snakes, to be harvested when they are but fingernail size…Not to mention the hand oxidation to 80% oxidation levels, turning this unique tea into its other name: The Five Color tea. The buds that were not chewed might remain silvery, but sometimes golden, and the copper brown of the oxidized leaves, reddish and black colors all combined into this Five Color tea. The most amazing fact though, is the aroma and taste- for there is nothing quite like it. The Leaf Hoppers have managed to suck the astringency out of the leaves, and the chemistry of the polyphenols inside the leaves rushing to heal the bite wounds create a honey suckle perfume. Indeed, this tea must be on the bucket list of must try teas of all time. This summer, we got the last remaining small batch produced.

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