Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Locally Grown Tea - Oregon Black Tea

People continue to be fascinated with the fact that there is locally grown tea right here in Oregon. Locally grown Camellia sinensis, no less. We are not talking about herbal tea, but the actual tea leaf, growing right here in Oregon.  

When picking tea, as with different tea types, there are different picks. With high mountain green oolong tea, the standard is two leaves and a bud. This means that you will often see the baby leaf, the tip, or the bud, accompanied by the two lower leaves.

I was looking at some "Two leaves and a bud" tea the other day. One thing I noticed,  it was three leaves and a very small bud. It is as if they waited just until the bud started to grow and then picked this batch of tea as if to nip it in the bud... See the two pics of Dong Ding Light Bake below:
Dong Ding Light Bake
Dong Ding Light Bake
And zooming in on the baby tip:

Then with something like the Yunnan Gold Tips, it is all tips, but the tips are much more mature than the tips of the Dong Ding Light Bake. The latest picking of the Minto Island Tea made me realize that if you are only going to pick tips, and only include tips into your batch of tea, then you can wait for the tips to get bigger. You can pick the tips when they are more mature. The tips will still be pliable and able to be influenced by the processing. 

But if pick more than just tips when the tips are already big, the additional leaves might be too mature. Try as you might to influence the leaves' rate of oxidation through massaging or rolling the leaf, you are wasting your time. These leaves have already developed a protective surface that make human manipulation nearly impossible. Maybe this is the over-mature orange pekoe that gets thrown to the leaf shredders for the cut and sift or the tea bag cut leaf processing. It's just too dang stubborn to do anything else with. If the bud is more mature than all we get to work with is buds.

There is nothing bad about that, it's just that you will have to pick a lot more tea because each pinch that is a plucking of the leaf from the plant is just of a bud.  Buds, even big buds, by their nature, are small and light weight. If you pick the two leaves and a bud, each pinch has more leaf as well as some stem which makes the weight of tea per pluck much more substantial, thus less picking.  

Below we have the locally grown Minto Island black tea. The big brownish leaf is what we want to avoid. Generally we want our tea to look consistent, but this leaf is the inconsistency. These leaves look this way because they were already too mature and too tough at the time of processing. We managed to pick most of these over mature leaves out. This most recent batch is our best batch yet. It has a lot of furry tips and this is promising. It has some similarities to a silver tip oolong. Flavor notes for the Minto Black include: pine, mint, cinnamon, and honey.

Minto Island Oregon Grown Black Tea 2014

Minto Island Grown J-TEA processed black tea, August 28th, 2014

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