Laoshan Black First Harvest 2022
May 10, 2022
Mr. Tang’s family are generational tea farmers in Laoshan Mountain of Qingdao, Shandong. Shandong is located in Northeastern China. It is named after Mount Lao, a magnificent mountain range recognized by its striking, slim, elongated cliffs.
The many small plots that make up Mr. Tang’s tea farm are scattered along this coastline, at the foot of Mount Lao. Some are distributed right along the beaches, exposed to the salty wind that blows off of the water, while others are tucked slightly up into the forested hills, protected by the pine trees and the mountain behind them. There is a great peace that settles over this area of Laoshan. The tranquility of Mr. Tang’s tea farm is resounding, and extends between its many parts. Following a path that connects the plots next to the ocean to the ones tucked away in the forest, the sound of the waves progressively gives way to the sound of forest birds and running springs and the scent of the ocean turns into the scent of red pines and green plum.
Laoshan is a very unique tea producing area in China. It is as far North as a tea region can be, and at the highest latitude before temperatures become too cold for tea trees to survive. The small farms in Laoshan have Mount Lao on one side, and are otherwise surrounded by ocean. The air here is very humid, and the area sees longer winters with more frost and snow than the tea regions further South. Another special feature of Laoshan is that the water which irrigates the tea trees comes from natural springs that run through Mount Lao. This water is very pure and high in the minerals it collects from the cliffs of the mountain. It is no wonder we find that teas from Laoshan have such a distinct taste compared with teas from Southern China. The mountain minerals and the constriction of cooler temperatures have given a great richness, and the wet air coming off of the ocean has imparted umami and an unmistakable saline taste to them.
This black tea is made from the first harvest of the most tender, newly sprouted tea leaves from Mr. Tang’s tea gardens. On account of the cooler temperatures in Laoshan, the first harvest of these teas is almost a month later than the first harvests in Southern China tea regions. The leaves are hand harvested by Mr. Tang’s mother and grandmother, from the small plots scattered between Mount Lao and the Yellow Sea. Mr. Tang’s father and uncles, generational craftsmen who make this tea, have pan-fried it by hand in small batches over charcoal in an iron wok.
The resulting tea is so sweet, it comes across like straight confection or nectar. This sweetness, combined with its pungent florality, feels very much like honeysuckle. (Interestingly, Mr Tang told us that the honeysuckle bloom this year in Laoshan was remarkable!). The tea smells like chocolate, green almond, and smoke. Eventually, after several infusions, the flowers fall away and the chocolate and nuts come forward on the palate. This is a fascinating tea, and it offers a series of very pleasing associations. It is rich, and yet sparse, so that it may be read note by note.
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|Steep time||5 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8