“Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea
“Ai Jiao” or “Dwarf” oolong tea is an oolong tea typical of the east Chinese province of Fujian. Accordingly, the open-rolled leaf, medium roasting and rather high degree of oxidation are major processing characteristics. Many tea lovers will have encountered the “Ai Jiao” or “dwarf” cultivar under its Taiwanese name “Cing Xin” before. In Taiwan, this cultivar serves as the basis for a whole range of teas, including the world-famous Oriental Beauty Oolong. In terms of taste, the tea is characterized by the sweet dried fruit notes typical of the Oolong teas of this region and processing style. However, consonant with different levels of roasting and mineral components, where any, the resulting taste pattern can be quite individual.
Wuyi Waishan “Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea
As the full name of our “Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea already reveals, it comes from Wuyishan. This ia a mountainous, world-famous tea growing region in the north of the Chinese province of Fujian. From here come the famous black “Lapsang” teas. And from here come the Wuyi Yancha Rock Oolong Teas, enjoying a similar level of adoration among tea connoisseurs. In contrast to the latter, however, our “Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea grows in the “waishan” area surrounding Wuyishan’s rocky core. Accordingly, though being a genuine Wuyi oolong tea, it’s not a Wuyi “yancha” rock Oolong tea. This also explains the relatively low price of this tea, compared to a “zhengshan” tea. In terms of taste, though, and regarding a few qualities more, this is nevertheless an outstanding Wuyi oolong tea.
The Tea Garden
The tea garden is located in Wuyishan’s fertile valley of the “River of 9 Bends”, popular for its harmoniously sweet Wuyi Oolong teas. Cultivation here might not be close to nature in the narrowest sense (= biodiverse). However, there’s a strict no-pesticides policy, and a first sip of this delicacy leaves no doubt that the tea plants lack nothing here…
The Processing takes place in the way that is characteristic for Wuyi oolong teas. That is, the first processing step is the withering of the tea leaves. This takes place in two phases, once outdoors in the sun and once in the shady interior of tea factory. Both phases are repeatedly interrupted by manual swirling and rubbing the tea leaves against each other. At this, the leaf surfaces are broken up by manual force without destroying the tea leaf as such. As a result, leaking leaf juices react with the atmospheric oxygen. This process is particularly important for the taste of any oolong tea.
After reaching the desired degree of oxidation, heating to a relatively high temperature causes the enzymes in the leaf to degenerate. This also causes oxidation processes to stop. The tea leaves then get their final shape by rolling under reduced heat. However, the rolling does not only serve aesthetic purposes. Rather, it also breaks up remaining leaf structures and distributes the juices evenly in the tea leaf. The open-rolled, slightly curled shape is characteristic of the Oolong teas of this region and processing method.
The subsequent roasting favors a gentle process at relatively low temperatures, extending over several runs. It is important that the tea leaves do not “burn”. Also the roast aroma mustn’t overlay the pleasantly mellow taste of the tea. In Wuyishan, special roasting devices consist in a tray built over a charcoal warmer. Then follows the last processing step, the final drying. At this, the tea leaves lose most of their residual moisture. Today, modern convection dryers usually serve for this purpose.
Taste and Appearance
Depending on light, the dry tea leaf displays different levels of grey, up to black. In the shining red infusion, the leaves then take on a brwonish color. Intense sweet dried fruit notes seamlessly melt with mild roast flavors to a perfectly harmonious mellow taste pattern.
As generally with Oolong teas, our Ai Jiao Dwarf Oolong principally allows for two different preparation approaches.
“Western” or “Everyday” approach
One is the so-called “western” approach to preparing a tea in one, max. two infusions. The key to this approach is the combination of comparatively low dosing with relatively long infusion periods. Since Chinese people will also use this approach in their everyday life, it is actually not so much a “western” as rather the “everyday” approach to tea preparation…
As for our “Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea, first pour 200ml water (90°C) over 5g dry tea leaves. Then, leave for 3-5 minutes, done… And for whom one infusion turns out to be not enough … A second infusion with at least the same infusion period will still be tasty!!
“Chinese” or “Ritual” approach
This contrasts with the “Chinese”, or rather: ritual approach to tea preparation, especially oolong tea preparation. As the word “ritual” already says, this is about more than just a good-tasting tea. Much rather, the Chinese tea ceremony, or “Gong Fu Cha” has a spiritual component in factually constituing a meditative practice. In contrast to the “everyday approach”, the use of relatively high doses for a long series of infusions with rather short individual infusion periods is characteristic of the ritual approach. At this, the goal is to isolate individual flavors and study the overall taste pattern’s development across the entire range of infusions…
For our “Ai Jiao” Dwarf Oolong Tea, first pour a little hot water (90°C) over 8-12g tea leaves. Then, drain again afer few seconds only. At this, the initial moistening with hot water serves to “awake” the tea leaves. Only then follows the actual first infusion with an infusion period around 30 seconds. The exact infusion period of this and follow-up infusions should follow your individual sensitive and situative perception. Therefore, haptical, olfactory and other senses play an important role in any ritual tea preparation.