Twelve Trees Oolong
Few Taiwanese teas command the same degree of respect around the world as Tung Ting (Twelve Trees) oolongs.
Over its century-long history, Dongding Oolong has developed into one of Taiwan's two signature teas. These two teas are locally known as Jie Mei Cha (Sister Teas). The second sister is Wenshan Baochong from northern Taiwan. Tung Ting Mountain is located in the center of the largest tea producing region in Taiwan, Nantou County. Responsible for over 40 percent of the island's tea production, Nantou's mountainous terrain and temperate climate is perfectly suited for oolongs.
According to local folklore, the origin of Dongding oolong began around 1855. A villager named Lin Fong Tse went to the renowned Wu Yi Mountains in Fujian Province, China, and came back with 36 tea trees of the ching-shing varietal. He gave 12 of these trees as a gift to a tea farmer friend, Lin San Yen, who had helped finance his trip. These 12 trees were subsequently planted along the mountain roads surrounding the beautiful Chi-Ling Lake near the town of Luku and it is said all modern day Dongdings are decedents of these 12 trees.
In honor of Lin Fong Tse and Lin San Yen, we have named our tea Twelve Trees Oolong. Our farmer Mr Wu has also chosen to put a unique twist by using the San Lin Xi leaf varietal which is normally used to make the other famous tea; the High Mountain Oolong. The slightly higher elevation means the leaves are slightly thicker, more leathery when wet. It also has a higher moisture content. The tea is completely handcrafted., from picking the one bud and two leaves to the kneading and firing process. After the initial oxidization and firing, the farmer spends an average of four days shaping and finishing the leaves. The process includes tsai-rou (repeat rolling/kneading), tsai-pei (repeat firing), and ding-shing (shaping). Dongding normally has an oxidation level of about 30% (but I have requested a slightly higher level), which is categorized as a light, medium-oxidized tea.
As you enjoy Twelve Trees, take note of the following:
The dry leaves: A rich dark green, locally described as wa-ching (toad green). Refreshing brown sugary scent.
The steeped leaves: An intense nutty and caramel aroma.
The liquor: Bright golden yellow, with crisp, complex full-bodied flavors -- again nutty and sweet.
The finish: Smooth, no astringency with lingering chestnut notes.
The empty cup, after enjoying the tea: The most amazing sweetness you've ever smelled from an empty cup! molasses syrup? sugar cane?
This tea is best enjoyed with the Gong Fu method of preparation.