Bao Zhong, also known as Pouchong, is the most lightly oxidised oolong (8 -12% or 10 – 18%) and because it is so lightly oxidised, in Taiwan, where it is grown, it is often referred to as a green tea. Made from the cultivar Qing Xin, this excellent tea tastes like Bao Zhong used to taste before the introduction of chemical fertilizers bumped up the yield and weakened the taste.
This particular batch of outstanding quality was produced by Farmer Dao Xian, who lives in Dachukeng, Pinglin. He is an eighth-generation tea farmer and in 2013 he became the first farmer in the region to convert his farming practice to purely organic, in cooperation with the social project Blue Magpie Tea.
With harvesting finished by the early afternoon and following a short (10 – 15 minute) withering in the sun, the leaves are spread out on huge tarpaulin mats which are then stacked in a rack to continue withering overnight before being further worked on the next day. From harvesting to finishing, Bao Zhong production takes about 24 hours.
Grown at 700 m above sea level, which is quite high for the region, the leaves for this tea were plucked at a time of year when the plants are mostly in or below the cloud. This natural shading encourages the plants to develop more chlorophyll, resulting in lower catechin levels (catechins are what makes green tea healthier than black tea but that also makes the tea more bitter) and higher L-theanine levels (the relaxing element in tea).
Very sweet, buttery, floral and as the tea unfolds through multiple infusions even fruity, this is a wonderful example of a fresh, spring Bao Zhong made from the Qing Xin (Chin Shin) cultivar. But the taste is not the only reason to buy it. Farmer Dao Xian’s success with organic farming has helped convince other farmers to do the same. Bearing in mind that organic tea makes up less than 10% of Taiwan’s total tea production, finding 15 farmers committed to organic farming in one small area is quite something.
This was of course no coincidence! Part of an environmental change project headed by Huang Bo-jun, the movement for change came about when during the course of his PHD Bo-jun came to realise the devastating impact chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in the tea gardens in the mountains of Pinglin were having on the soil and consequently the river basin and reservoir that supplies water to the greater part of Taipei. He set off on a mission to convince tea farmers to stop using chemicals. Through the social enterprise he founded called “Blue Magpie Tea” his aim is to make Pinglin 100% free of pesticides: An eco-village where locals and tourists can go and enjoy nature and tea farmers can be proud of their tea.
We love this tea because it tastes great but also because it is part of an important project to restore balance in the natural environment where the tea grows. When a farmer changes to organic farming processes he loses between 40 -50% of his tea output and therefore needs to sell the tea he does produce for a higher price than he would achieve for non-organic tea. We are happy to be able to support Blue Magpie Tea in achieving its aims for Pinglin by sharing this tea with you and bearing in mind that the tea is delicious through 4 or more infusions, do not consider it to be expensive.