They call it the “winter petal.” Dong Pian, in Chinese. The unexpected juxtaposition of the name lured me with its poetic charm. In the poetry lay a compelling story. A tea such as this could not be passed.
Dong Pian oolong is special kind of tea made during winter in Taiwan. It is not part of the normal winter harvest that takes place in November. Instead, it is made when there is a sudden rise in temperatures during the dead of winter that causes the tea bushes to bud. Such occurrences usually take place in January. Normally, during the winter months the tea bushes remain dormant.
Farmers harvest the buds along with the older leaves. The buds yield a lovely light bouquet, recalling lilies and orchids, with the older leaves adding body to the cup. The harvest necessarily is of a very limited quantity. In the picture above you can see the buds (or as folks in India would call it, tips) in the tea as silver spots.
Budding of the tea bushes during winter mainly takes place in tea farms at lower elevations. However, Dong Pian has characteristics of a high-mountain oolong because the conditions during the unseasonable warmth replicate the warm days and cold nights of the higher reaches during growing seasons. High-mountain oolongs, as you might already know, have a greater refinement and complexity which make them more valuable.
Dong Pian, just like the high-mountain oolongs, is lightly oxidized and unroasted. Although it cannot yield as many steeps, the first few cups of Dong Pian, when done in gong fu style (multiple steeping using a small vessel) is very fragrant, sweet and refreshing. Even when made in a conventional tea pot, as I did for my guests recently, the tea was beautiful. The happy guests used all kinds of interesting imagery to express the beauty of this tea!
The tea is also easy to brew. It makes a refreshing cup every time without getting bitter, making it a good tea for those who are starting off on oolongs.
If you look at the spent leaves of the tea below you will see the buds clearly. Note how small they are. It is amazing the amount of aroma these buds can yield!
The Dong Pian we have is of Qingxin cultivar and comes from the hills of Zhushan located in Nantou County, one of the major tea growing regions of central Taiwan. The tea was hand-harvested in January 2015, which makes it a little over a year old. However, since it was well stored in vacuum packaging it is still very fresh. And it also comes at affordable price, making this special tea accessible to many.