2020 Gold Medal winning Honeysuckle （Yin Hua Xiang 银花香） Oolong Tea (Master Huang April 27th)
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The Huang family won the gold medal in the grower's competition on Phoenix Mountain for this years' Honeysuckle fragrance tea. They coaxed out just the right amount of Honeysuckle and Pandan leaf in the fragrance, which expertly balanced with the complex and savory characteristics of Honeysuckle and Sweet Osmanthus nestled in the flavor profile.
It should not be too surprising though, as they win gold medals every single year for their teas. It all starts with leaves from their ancient, full arbor tea trees nestled in rich soil perfectly situated over 1000 meters high in the center of Wudong peak on Phoenix Mountain. Then comes their gifted hand finishing techniques, perfected over many generations--each better than the last. The fully grown sons are still under the watchful apprenticeship of their Father but will someday even surpass him. He has assured us that will make him a very proud Father indeed.
One thing no grower can control though is the weather. The spring picking is unfortunately right in the middle of the rainy season on Phoenix Mountain. Rain is needed for the tea to grow, but cool sunny days are ideal for picking and processing. It all starts at the cellular level in the tea leaves. On rainy days, for reasons no scientific studies have yet uncovered, Phoenix Mountain tea trees produce too much chlorogenic acid whereas on sunny days they produce almost none. The bitter, slightly metallic flavor of that molecule is great for coffee (up to 10% of the dry bean weight) but not for a Honey Orchid tea. Which is exactly why at least one of us is happily tasting teas everyday on Phoenix Mountain during the harvest season. This is the only way to ensure we get the best of the limited sunny day teas and thus the coveted best the Huang family has to offer. The flavor and fragrance are both very high and gently float on your palate and caress your nose. There are strong notes of lightly caramelized honey poured over a plate of orchids with a side order of ripe passion fruit and purple Iris flowers that continue long after you finish each cup.
We only buy their mao cha (not fully finished tea) which allows us to custom finish the tea in the final baking step. By adjusting the temperatures, the time and the turning frequencies we can coax out all the high and lasting floral fragrance our customers love without even a hint of the undesired baked notes. And that it what makes it all worthwhile.
As an aside, this tea sometimes goes by the alternate name Duck Poop. There are a number of legends floating around as to the origin of this other moniker, but the stories to explain it are sketchy at best. Kind of similar to the one about George and the cherry tree.
Storage: Store unused portions sealed in an airtight bag away from light in the freezer at 5F/-15C or below.
Brewing water: Earth2O brand mineral water most closely matches the slightly hard natural spring water on Phoenix Mountain and produces the finest results. Soft water, distilled water and hard water will ruin this tea. Tap water varies wildly and is best avoided as well. If you don't have Earth2O water available please see good substitutions on our water page.
Brewing temperature: 100C/212F
Brewing method: 3-5g tea leaves (~1-2 heaping Tablespoons), 60-80ml (~1/4-1/3 cup) water each time with quick infusions in a Chinese gaiwan or a small pot.
Notes: Small quick infusions showcase the changing flavors of each cup. Longer brewing times in larger quantities of water end up more homogeneous, but still very good results.