Taiwan Honey Fragrant Red Tea/ Mi Xiang Hong Cha
country of origin Taiwan
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Red tea from Taiwan
球形密香紅茶 rolled into the traditional small balls typical for oolongs was made by Mr Xie from tea growing in his “Harmonious Fragrance” garden in Ming Jian, Nantou, in central Taiwan. Mr Xie is an advocate of organic tea growing with strictly no chemicals. His garden is MOA certified (see in the Story).
Many farmers have sought to create this amazing tea, famous for its honey sweetness and fragrance that does justice to its name. Its unique aroma and taste are the result of insects (grasshoppers) biting on its leaves directly before they are harvested. The insect’s saliva influences the fermenting process, which starts as soon as the leaf cells are exposed to air. Thanks to Mr Xie’s experience with tea processing and his responsible approach to the ecosystem, his version of this tea is fine, rich, sweet and pleasant.
This fully oxidised, dark, unbroken dry leaf with steely gloss formed into balls with traces of cocoa, chrysanthemum flowers and flower honey in its fragrance makes a light brown goldish infusion with a full, balanced, honey, sweet woody taste with a distinct cocoa and heavy flowery undertones.
Production – Ming Jian, Nantou, Central Taiwan
Cultivar – Si Ji Chun
Altitude - 300 - 400 m
Harvest - June 2017
Preparation:we recommend to prepare the tea in 1,5 dcl of water. Put 3 g of tea into a warmed teapot and pour the boiled water, cooled down to 85°C . Let is steep for 1 – 1,5 minute, then pour into a cup. You can repeat the process many times, untill the tea has a good taste. With firther infusions, we slightly increase water temperature and time of steeping.
Mi Xiang (Honey Fragrance) red tea; rolled into balls 球形密香紅茶
Introducing the grower
Mingjian is situated at a lower altitude – at the foot of the central mountain range. In the past few decades, the teas from this height were overshadowed by the popular teas grown in higher altitudes. Mingjian prospered thanks to supplying export teas at lower prices or teas for the mass production of bottled tea (so-called RTDs, ready-to-drink). For three generations, Mr Xie’s family grew small amounts of oolongs, from the times when teas from higher altitude did not exist yet. Talking of organic farming and the need of positionchange in tea-growing (but also other branches of agriculture), it is important to keep in mind that farmers are always the first victims of chemicals. It is them who handle large quantities of agrochemicals and are in a direct contact with them. Moreover, any kind of change can happen only thanks to humanisation and friendship. The farmers have to be included, not excluded – it is better to train them than make them outcasts. Same as many other farmers, Mr Xie started to suspect that these chemicals are harmful for his family, community and soil. When his wife almost lost their second child in 1997, he was having it no more. Although his friends and family opposed the idea, Mr Xie undertook to grow tea organically, whatever the cost. First, he attended several organic farming trainings organised by MOA.
MOA stands for “Mokichi Okada Cultural Services Association International”. This organisation was founded by Mokichi Okada (1882–1955) who started three large project during his lifetime: “Mokichi’s detoxication treatment” for the soil, “Natural farming, beverages and food” and “Art and culture”. These three projects brought together interconnected groups of people who shared the same aim: to help each other. Okada’s main aim was “to enable the humankind to expand and flourish, and thus help to create healthier people, families, regions, countries and cultures”. His Japanese movement NPO for natural agriculture led to the founding of the Da Ren farm in 1982 and in 1991, the standards for healthy organic agriculture were created. Branches started to be founded together with the expansion of a social system for theoretical and practical collaboration among Japanese farmers. In April 1990, a group of people who cared about the environment and were preoccupied with pollution wanted to change the situation in Taiwan. They joined the international MOA and founded a sister organisation whose aim was to educate farmers and provide certification of organic food and beverages. This Taiwanese foundation was created with the aim to find a way of a healthy and happy life and to secure environmentally sustainable natural farming according to MOA and the hope that this ideology and techniques of sustainable agriculture will spread globally. The MOA certification is rather strict and it secures sustainable organic farming without a substantial bureaucratic and financial load – which is the problem of a number of organic certification authorities around the world. A good way to get acquainted with Taiwanese organic teas is to watch out for MOA certification.
From 1997 to 2000, Mr Xie and his family struggled with employing these principles. The tea was low grade and Mr Xie lost most of his customers. His father, who had been worried even at the moment when Mr Xie suggested the change of the status quo, was very critical of his decision. Organic farming is very difficult and requires a radical changes both in farming and processing – and such changes require time. Instead of giving up – which is what many people would do – Mr Xie took a part-time job as a carpenter and painter. He work day and night, carpentering and farming, to sustain his family. Finally, at the beginning of the new millennium, his organic farm was doing well enough to put his tea back on the market. Since then, he has won several awards, was on telly – and even heard his father, now an active octogenarian, bragging that his tea is organic and is good for the environment. Mr Xie’s work did not end with his own garden. He knew that he would have to improve his abilities, grow better and better teas and help his neighbours to understand the value of organic farming – especially because their plots are close and influence each other. He founded a cooperative with other farmers and started to teach the local people about the transition to organic farming, offering them equal shares in their joint business. As more and more people joined this initiative, the initiative also grew. Today, over twenty farmers from the Mingjian region have gone organic, including Mr Xie’s direct neighbours. Mr Xie’s good heart is expressed by his tears. He cares deeply for tea and for the Earth. He produces green tea, large- and small-leaved tea red tea as well as several types of oolong, all with a great skill. The problem is that the growers are able to gain money more easily with chemicals and less work. This is why many of them overuse fertilisers and pesticides, shortening the average life of their tea shrubs to fifteen years – all with a prospect of personal gain. In many of them, the chemicals cause cancer, making them the victims. Mr Xie is someone who saw a different way, and taught it to the others. And that’s what his tea is like, too.
This tea is purely organic, although it comes from a plantation. It is a cultivar with small leaves.
It smells of honey, because it was bug-bitten, similarly as Oriental Beauty. With the growing number of farmers who produce organic tea, they had to come up with ways of dealing with the insects that nibble on their tea – especially with their neighbours using pesticides, making all the insects move to their gardens. The biting of tea by insects and its subsequent processing started with the Oriental Beauty tea in the Beipu area, and it has recently spread also to Nantou. The hybrid is sometime called Concubine Tea. As the insects bite on the tea leaves, its saliva reacting with the tea juices, the oxidation process starts before the harvesting of the leaves. This happens in the summer, usually from June to August. When the tea is only mildly oxidised, the resulting is a musk, honey fragrance that lingers in the back of the mouth. When the tea is fully oxidised, its taste is deeper and richer. After his success with the partially oxidised oolong with honey fragrance, Mr Xie decided to employ a similar procedure to make red tea. In short, it is tea rolled into balls after being nibbled on by insects. It is made of tea leaves that were fully oxidised and then roasted differently.
Area: Taiwan - Nantou County
Country of origin: Taiwan