We would like to share with you the unique story of our oolong Guei Fei.
In September of 1999 Taiwan suffered a 7.6 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter falling in Nantou County. In the area of Dong Ding, tea farmers were busy rebuilding and repairing their homes and villages and were distracted from their winter harvest of tea. As a result, little tiny herbivores (Empoasca onukii) or leafhoppers came to nibble on their tea plants.
Disaster?! Not at all.
Leafhopper bitten oolong not only can be acceptable, but desirable. In fact, in the north of Taiwan Bai Hao or Formosa Oolong is famously loved for its honeyed notes of sweet succulent fruit. This altered flavor is thanks to the provocation of these little bugs.
The tea plant, as with other plants, knows when it is being attacked and sometimes is aware even before the attack occurs. The defense mechanisms can be a sudden change in chemistry that might release toxins, decrease nutrition in the leaf, or release airborne chemicals. In the case of tea plants, airborne volatile chemicals are released when attacked by this 3 mm insect. Curiously, by our perception, a wonderful fragrance is released in the field and then, in the cup.
You are able to witness these little bites by looking closely at the unfurled steeped leaves, but most wonderfully, you will witness this little attack by the sweetness of the tea on your palate.
Our producer of Guei Fei, Mr. Chang sharing some tea with us.