Secret of Baozhong teas from Wenshan mountains

As soon as we entered the small darkened room where tea leaves whithered, we absorbed unbeliavably sweet heady aroma of exotic flowers. Tea leaves were laying there in many levels of bamboo mats, the air was vibrating and we got a dizzy spell from its intensity. Every time I put a cup of Baozhong tea close to my lips and smell its aroma, I remember that moment…

Experienced picker of chosen leaves for Baozhong tea

Master Yu Ban Zhan

Baozhong Teas

Since five years we offer Taiwanese Baozhong teas (包種) from Wenshan mountains, grown by Mr. Yu Ban Zhang. When you visit his tea garden, you would hardly believe that Taipei mega City is just half an hour away.  Green slopes, wild rivers, beautiful views and fresh air from an ocean makes this landscape one of the most charming in all Taiwan.

True Baozhong tea has to originate here in this heaven on earth and that is why i tis called „Wenshan Bao Zhong“. Most likely from surrounding of Pinglin and Shiding towns. Wenshan is the local mountain range, yet i tis also a name of a region where famous Muzha is placed and from where comes another legendary Taiwanese teaTie Guan Yin. Baozhong teas (包種) are semi oxidized teas, so called oolongs, sometimes they are sorted into a separate group of teas in between  oolongs and green teas. The oxidization is very moderate, around 10 %. History of this tea goes back to Ching dynasty and its name comes from a traditional paper, that was originally used for its wrapping.

Local Tea Farming

Though local landscape seems to be virgin-like, the farmers have already adopted all sins of modern agriculuture. Pesticides and other chemicals are on daily use here as well as at many other places on Taiwan. The farmers are often not really aware of their impact on ecosystem and future of tea production. Mr. Yu Ban Zhang has decided to do it differently years ago. For 15 years he maintains his garden in a harmony with local beautiful nature. He is not using any chemicals, even no organic fertilisers and artificial irrigation. He lets tea bushes to their destiny and helps them as little as possible. „Tea bushes have to struggle themselves with local ecosystem and that makes them stronger and more resistant“ says smiling Yu Ban Zhan.

Four years ago we took an old pick – up car with a textile roof and drove to mountains to visit Mr. Yu Ban Zhan. I already knew his teas and I was looking forward to meet him in person. We made a break at roadhouse cafe at the end of Pinglin town, all bumped from the drive, where a motorbike gang just also parked, like they would just jump out from Easy Rider movie. Untill 2002, stronger bikes around 150 cc were basically banned on Taiwan and even today they are not allowed to highways and speedways. The gang was trully tuned, including wild stud leather jackets and bull horns helmets. To our greater surprise, they unfolded their tiny kung-fu tea sets and started to drink tea!

Harmony with Nature by master Yu Ban Zhang

We arrived to Yu Ban Zhan´s house before noon. All family already waited for us and we were warmly welcomed. We di not loose any time and master took us to the tea garden. Experienced pickers (ladies) were just finishing morning picking. It was early April and spring season was at its peak. It was amazing how skilfully they choosed the freshly sprung leaves. We could hardly compete with their fragile fingers. „Leaf picking and their right choice i sone of the most crucial moments in all tea processing“ commented Yu Ban Zhang right there. „And thanks to great experience of our pickers we have such an outstanding tea“ he continued. He explained every detail with great enthusiasm and patience. He walked with love through his tea garden, that he proudly names Respect Great Nature Tea Garden. At one moment he stoped, picked one tips (upper three-leaf) and showed it to us: „You see how far the leaves are from each other? Tea grows very slowly. Thus you recognize it was not artificially stimulated.

We took bamboo baskets with the picked leaves and walked back towards his house. There was no tea factory there. Baozhong production needs a minimal touch of human hands. Leaves were spread onto rounded bamboo mats and put on a street next to the house. Yu Ban Zhan laughed: „Ideal weather, not too hot, not too cold“! And we were starring with surprise on tea leaves spread over the road. No car was passing the whole day and after sunset all familly ran out, took the mats with leaves and put them on special trolleys – stands.

Tea tasting and choosing

Then we started to taste yesterday´s production. There is no special variety for Baozhong tea, on local slopes you most often find Qing Xin, Cui Yu, Jin Xuan and Da Wu cultivars. Each of them has its special features and fans. Every time we were overwhelmed by a fresh aroma and flavour of tea, that was growing on the magical mountains slopes just a day ago. First we liked everything and it was very hard to differentiate and decide what to buy. When I decisively took one sample and explained why I like it, master patted on my shoulder, looked pleased and said that I know a lot. Hopefully it was honest.

We spent one of most wonderfull days of our lives there – at Yu Ban Zhan´s tea garden. I hope I will come back, not only in memories. We offer Baozhong teas made by master Yu Ban Zhan every year, they are a sweet memory that we can share with you, at least through tastebuds.

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