Verdant Tea

Tasting Journal: Laoshan Innovations

Tasting Journal: Laoshan Innovations

Tasting Journal: Laoshan Innovations

Tasting the latest from the He Family, with Laoshan Oolongs, Pine Needle Green and Gongfu Black

July 22, 2016

On our last trip out to Laoshan, we were witness to the devastating frost damage from 2015 / 2106’s  bitter cold winter. Over a third of the village’s tea plants were frost-damaged to the point of needing to be cut back to their roots.

Everyone in Laoshan village was talking about the damage- even the Qingdao newspaper ran a big story about the price of Laoshan tea multiplying this season due to the scarcity.

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Though Laoshan has only been a commercial tea region for les than 100 years, there are already imitation Laoshan teas, grown near Qingdao and Huangdao or further inland in Shandong, and named after the nearby Daoist mountain range. Our partner Qingqing lamented that the imitation teas growing inland being sold as Laoshan teas would be a huge pressure on the village this year, and warned against dishonest vendors selling “Laoshan” tea without addressing the tremendous blow to the region.

We promised her and the rest of the He family that not only would we share the story of this year’s scarcity, but we would buckle down and lower our prices wherever possible to help them sell more to get through the season and get back on their feet.

 

We want to thank everyone across the world who has supported Laoshan Village and the He Family this year. 

 

Your love of our friends’ teas has helped them keep innovating and helped them lead their neighbors through difficult times. The last harvests of spring are all finished, and this week we are excited to share many teas that the He family did not get to make earlier in the spring due to the limited supply. While the cold did reduce their own total seasonal harvest by almost 40%, the tough winter and slow growing season has resulted in some of the sweetest and most mineral-heavy tea we have seen from the region.

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We started our tasting in a celebratory mood with the Laoshan Gongfu Black.
This tea is something that would absolutely not exist if not for the support internationally for the He Family’s Laoshan Black tea.

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Their family is still one of the few families in the village using true Laoshan mountain tea to process into a black tea, even while imitation teas have emerged from lowland inland regions grown with pesticides to try to take advantage of the name that the He family and their neighbors have carefully cultivated for this newer innovation.

The Laoshan Gongfu Black takes three days of sun oxidization and hours of careful hand twisting and finishing to complete, but the results are worth it. The flavor is full of honey and chocolate dipped candied orange peel. The full taste experience was so refined, and aftertaste / texture heavy.

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This tea was a great contrast to the traditionally curled Spring Reserve Laoshan Black, a picking heavy on the smallest buds whose down adds rich texture and mouthfeel to the harvest. The reserve Laoshan Black, in the simplest description, is like a super-concentrated version of the classic Laoshan Black. It was full of deep dark chocolate tones, rich malt, spicy cinnamon, and vanilla marshmallow aftertaste.

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The Laoshan Roasted Oolong was one of the most exciting parts of our tasting. We remember the first year this was ever made, and dubbed “dou dou cha” (豆豆茶) by Qingqing – a cute nickname that refers to the curled balls looking like little soybeans.

This tea has grown immensely. The latest harvest was a rush of amarena cherry flavor and a super thick wheat and rye profile with sweet cinnamon in the aftertaste. This tea has moved strongly in its own direction from its close sibling of Laoshan Black, and we are thrilled with the complexity and depth that Mr. He and his wife’s masterful hands brings to his tea through such delicate processing.

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From Laoshan Roasted Oolong we moved to this year’s Laoshan Green oolong, another innovative tea that sits somewhere between a traditional unroasted oolong and Laohsan Green.

This year’s most pronounced note was that deep and pervasive mineral flavor, truly revealing the actual taste of Laoshan spring water. Complimenting this flavor was banana foster, cashew, vanilla, and an aromatic palo santo profile. Like Laoshan Roasted oolong, this tea is settling into its own category, and the results are very rewarding.

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Finally we capped our tasting with the 2016 Spring Pine Needle Green, a hand twisted and finished harvest that is as gorgeous to steep in glass and watch as it is to taste. Enjoying this tea, it is amazing to consider that this is only the second season for this labor intensive Laoshan Green. We picked up tons of citrus and melon to complement the assertive sweet grass flavor and unique 2016 mineral note. In a way, this tea felt more closely related than usual to Dragonwell, which shares the same varietal as Laoshan: the Longjing Qunti.

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Tasting the precious results of this seasons’ labor is rewarding and exciting.

While the yields were small, we are excited to share everything the He family produced while it lasts. The unique weather conditions have a clear and fascinating effect on flavor that is worth exploring in your own tasting. Happy sipping!

 
 
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