Competition Grade Oriental Beauty is quite possibly the best tea we’ve ever carried. JoJo Tea exists, in no small part, thanks to Oriental Beauty. When our founder, Michael Ortiz, first sipped Oriental Beauty, he had tried many teas, and was becoming more and more interested in tea, even if casually. Oriental Beauty stopped hi in his tracks. He had no idea what the name of the tea was, or where it came from, beyond the magical island of Taiwan. But, the flavor profile blew his mind. He had never tasted anything so elegant. Its dynamics and nuances were all in harmony and balance, like a group of eight Cirque Du Soleil performers standing on a platform made of forks balancing on a salt shaker. He dedicated his life to tea in the way that only a naive 25 year old would: he started a business.
Since then, we’ve learned so much about this tea. This tea belongs to a general category of oolong tea called Bai Hao (or White Tip) oolong. Bai Hao oolong originates in Fujian province. If you look at the dry leaf, you’ll notice that each plucking has a fuzzy white bud at the tip. Hence, the name, White Tip oolong. When tea making made its way into Taiwan in the 1850’s, Western Taiwan focused on producing Bai Hao oolong. The districts of Xinchu and Miaoli have differentiated themselves for the level of Bai Hao oolong they produce.
In order for a Bai Hao oolong to reach the level of Oriental Beauty, it all starts with the cultivar. To review, cultivar just means cultivated varietal. It specifies the strand of the tea bush used to make this batch. All true Oriental Beauty comes from a cultivar called Chinxing Da Pan. So, why is the cultivar so important? What qualifies Chinxing Da Pan from the other Taiwanese cultivars?
Sub-tropical mountain forests cover much of Taiwan, and especially these regions of Miaoli and Xinchu. There are tiny insects that live in this forest called green leaf hoppers. They’re really tiny, maybe the size of a grain of rice. But, if you look at them closely, they look like tiny grasshopppers. These little insects love to nibble on the young, tender buds of the Chinxing Da Pan cultivar. When they do, the bushes create concentrated sugars as a defense. These sugars are so concentrated that they overwhelm the insects. The insects feast on the sugars until they reach an inebriated state. Then, the insects’ reaction time really slows down. Birds, snakes, and other animals then feast on the slow hoppers. Then, they digest and poopshit the insects into the soil, which the plants LOVE.
Did you notice that I mentioned concentrated sugars? When the insects nibble on the buds, bruising is caused. And hopefully we remember what happens to leaves when they’re bruised: oxidation! Except in the case of Chinxing Da Pan, the oxidation begins while the buds are still on the bush. The combination of concentrated sugars and early oxidation creates a sweetness that is absolutely unique, and impossible to replicate.
Most Bai Hao oolongs have natural notes of grilled peaches and honey. Our regular Oriental Beauty, for example, expresses these flavors beautifully. Competition grade is a step above, though. So, what differentiates a Competition Grade Oriental Beauty? While exhibiting this famous characteristic flavor, this tea also delivers a mouthfeel that sets it apart. This tea wakes up the mouth in ways that really should be experienced by any tea lover. It’s easy to drink, and can deliver plenty of delicious casual sips. But, we recommend brewing in the smallest vessel possible. Fill up your vessel to about 1/3 with loose tea, and then brew it repeatedly, over and over. Pour yourselves tiny cups. Make every sip important. We promise, the depth of this tea will stand up to even your most scrutinizing sip.