Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea
This month we are excited to offer our loyal tea club patrons one of Taiwan’s truly unique teas, the famous Oriental Beauty.
Oriental Beauty got its first big break in 1933 when the lucky farmer blew away the tea competition that season with an exceptional score of over 300 points causing a huge spike in demand for this new tea from vendors reaching 10 yen a jin (600 grams), which in those days was ten times the expected price for a tea farmer! Oriental Beauty went on to have a reputation as a very expensive tea and still can be if you buy the real deal.
One Tea, Many Names…
You may have heard of this tea by other names, such as Dong Fang Mei Ren 東方美人 or Bai Hao Oolong 白毫. Despite its many names, none of them convey the secret agent that buzzes around the tea fields doing their part to process the before its plucked. The tea leaf-hopper Jacobiasca formosana! The tiny 3 mm leaf-hopper, normally a pest for tea farmers, is essential to the development of Oriental Beauty.
Leaf Hoppers and Terpenes!
Jacobiasca formosana! The tiny 3 mm leaf-hopper, normally a pest for tea farmers, is essential to the development of Oriental Beauty.
These tiny insects bite and suck nutrients from the tea plants leaves and stems. This activates the tea’s defense mechanisms releasing terpenes in the injured leaf. If the harvest date is timed correctly these partially eaten and terpene-rich tea leaves can be skillfully processed into a unique honey fragrance. This high oxidation oolong has won over the pallets of tea drinkers the world over.
It’s a tricky process managing the creative destruction of your tea crop before you harvest. If the weather doesn’t cooperate for picking and you wait too long the bitten tea won’t turn out right.
If you do get it right then your total weight in Oriental Beauty will be lower than if you had kept the pests away and made another tea. This puts further pressure on the price per gram. In the early days, the windfall nature of being an early adopter of this tea lent it the nickname Peng Feng tea, or braggart’s tea.
We can only imagine the “I told you so” look that very first farmer of this tea had that could have inspired that nickname.
Taylor Drye, Mad Monk Tea
Founded in San Diego, each tea purchased supports organic and
regenerative farmers around the globe.