"Puff Tea" - The Eastern Beauty Tea
The Eastern Beauty Tea
|"Puff" Oolong Tea is mainly produced in the Pei Pu and Er Mei Hsiang region in Hsin Tzu County. Tea is the major crop in this region. Ninety percent of the residents are full or part tea farmers, and almost all women harvest tea to supplement their income. Because of the special geography that is graced with fresh air and moisture from the mountains and rivers, the tea produced here carries a very special quality, especially those tea that sprout one week before and after the beginning of the ninth solar term, the "Grain in Bread (June 5, 6, or 7). During this period, the new buds of the tea leaves are usually infected with "Green Leaf Cicada (Leaf Hopper)". The grown buds that have been infected with the Leave Hopper are then made into a high class Oolong Tea called the "Easter Beauty Tea". This tea has had a long history of one hundred years.
Among all Traditional Taiwan Oolong Teas that have been produced, the "Puff Tea" is rated as one of the best of its kind; however, the quantity produced each year is very limited. Its special quality and fragrance truly amazed all that have tried it. A few brands of Oolong tea produced in Taiwan has become quite famous in Europe and won the name "the Eastern Beauty" for their highly commented quality in color and aroma. Among those, the "Puff Tea" grown in the mountain area of Hsin Tzu County is rated as one of the best.
There is a rather funny story about the name "Puff Tea" (Pong Fong, in Chinese).A few decades ago, a tea farmer's tea was all infected with these little "green leaf cicadas". His crops were not growing very well, but to make a living, he harvested these tea leaves as usual, made them into tea, and sold the whole batch to shops in Taipei. Strangely, these tea leaves had a very special aroma. Immediately, tea shops started to pay attention to it and bought out all his tea with ten times the market price. This tea farmer was very happy.
After he went back to his home town, he told the people in the village about this strange encounter he had in Taipei. Nobody actually believed him that those tea leaves could sell for such a high price and thought that he was just puffing up the truth (in Hakka "Pong Fong" means brag and puff). Generations after generations, it is still called the "Puff Tea" today.
Another story says that the tea is called the "Puff Tea" because it is a very high class expensive tea and the quantity produced is very limited. A person has to be quite well off to be able to afford the tea. Being able to buy the tea is something to brag or boast about. Very often, someone would buy a lesser product and boast that he/she could afford the high class Oolong tea. When people found out the truth, they usually could not help but to laugh at this person for boasting. Thus, after a while this tea became the "Puff Tea".
Traditional top grade Taiwan Oolong Tea is sold ten times higher in Europe. Therefore, some people call it the "Puff Tea" meaning overrated or puffing up. For the finished product, its leaves are usually mixed with five colors - white, green, yellow, red, and brown. It is highly preferred by tea lovers. It is also called the "White Hair Oolong Tea". After it was sold to the Europe, the Queen of England, after tasting this tea, loved it very much and, therefore, named it the "Easter Beauty Tea". This tea is, in reality, very highly rated in Europe. "Being famous in Europe" is true not a boast or puff.
Tea leaves, after picked, are usually sunned to oxidize and extract their water content. After sunning, the leaves are then moved indoors to continue the fermentation process. After they are air-dried and tossed, the tea-leaves appear to be reddish-brown with a silver core bud. When a fragrance that resembles cooked nuts is smelled, the tea leaves then are ready for the step in the tea making process.
After fermentation, the color, aroma, and taste of the tea leaves are basically formed. At this time, the fermented tea has to be fried to discontinue its fermentation. To get a batch of tea leaves that is superior in color and aroma with a brightly adorned white tip, the temperature control has to be very carefully executed. Usually, the temperature is increased gradually over the whole frying process, and the frying has to be done as quickly as possible. After frying, the tea leaves are then left to regain some of their suppleness. A quality tea should have a prominent white tip and bright yellowish-red color. The next step is kneading to curl the leaves for a better form and taste. Drying tea mainly is to extract its moisture, curl the tea into small strips, rid of its raw-leave tastes, and minimize its bitterness to accentuate its sweet and thick aroma.
"Puff Oolong Tea" is a partially fermented tea, but, compare to others, its fermentation is higher. The form of the best leaves compose of a fat top bud with a prominent white tip and bright color. The smell resembles a natural aroma of cooked nuts that is fragrant and pleasant. The color of the tea (brewed) is clear and bright and, the taste is thick and smooth with an after -taste you will remember. This is the famous "Puff Tea".