Last Updated on 02/21/2021 by Desmond
Among the Oolong tea lovers circle, you may often hear them talking about “Oriental Beauty.” Is there a wonderful woman from the east? Don’t be a mistake; actually, they are talking about a top-grade Oolong tea from Taiwan – Dongfang Meiren Tea.
Stories About the Names
Dongfang Meiren tea originated in Taiwan, which belongs to heavily fermented Oolong tea. Although Taiwan got original wild tea trees and the local people had a long history of tea-drinking habits, now the teas produced in Taiwan are from the tea trees brought by the Fujian immigrants and the processing methods.
In Taiwan, Dongfang Meiren tea got a lot of origin stories, make it got various names.
Pengfeng tea is the earliest name of Dongfang Meiren tea; it came from a story about a dishonest tea master. It is said that there was once a tea master, his plantation was under a plague of insect attack; all the leaves were bitten by the bugs and turn red. But the tea master didn’t want to bear the loss and decided to process the decaying leaves into tea. Then he sold these “problem tea” in the market; unexpectedly, these teas were very popular.
After he sold all the teas out and back to the village, he couldn’t wait to brag about it to other folks and overstate his earning. “Pengfeng” in the Southern Fujian Dialect means bragging, so all the villagers named the tea Pengfeng for fun. Even though later the truth tells the tea is really good, everybody has already used to this name.
The tender buds and leaves on the tea trees are covered with tiny white fuzz; all the white tea retained them well. These fuzz called “Hao.” Except rich in amino acid, the fuzz also brings the fresh mouthfeel of tea and better benefits and protects the leaves from the bugs’ attack.
Dongfang Meiren tea doesn’t use pesticides during plantation at all; they need the bugs’ help to improve the flavor. However, the tender buds got more fuzz so that the bugs can’t bite them. After picking, they still retained the fuzz, so-called White-tip. This is an obvious feature between Dongfang Meiren tea to other Oolongs.
After processed into dried tea, the leaves show five colors. White from the Hao, green and yellow from the chlorophyll, red from the bug-bitten part, dark brown from the fermentation processing. So some people also call Dongfang Meiren tea Five-colors Tea.
Dongfang Meiren Tea
Dongfang Meiren (Oriental Beauty) Tea is the most well-known name. In the 1960 World Expo, Pengfeng tea got the Silver Award and was dedicated to the British Queen Elizabeth II for tasting. It is said that after the Queen tasted it, she was shot by the beautiful appearance the leaves after brewed; they just like a beauty dancing in the water. Plus the awesome flavor, the Queen was full of praise for it, and grant it the Name “Oriental Beauty tea.”
How Dongfang Meiren Tea Taste
Taiwan people always love Oolong teas; Dong ding Oolong, Tieguanyin, and Dongfang Meiren often appear on their tea tray. Oolong tea belongs to partially-fermented tea; the flavor falls in between the non-fermented green tea and the complete-fermented black tea, got both the fresh, natural aroma and the roasting taste.
But, Dongfang Meiren’s fermentation degree is very deep, with the most characteristic in all the Oolong teas. The fermentation degree of it often high to 75%, some even to 75%-80%. As a contrast, the Qing-flavor type Tieguanyin typically is 18%-28%, the roasted-flavor Wuyi Rock tea is about 40%. So, in terms of flavor, Dongfang Meiren tea tastes more like black tea and without any herbaceous smell.
The brews of Dongfang Meiren tea shows amber, as transparent as champagne. The mouthfeel is similar to the dark tea, mellow and smooth, without astringency. Due to the unique cultivation method, Dongfang Meiren tastes with a charming, litchi-like fragrant and a dedicated, strong, honey-like sweetness.
A Very Unusual Cultivation Method
When we are talking about Dongfang Meiren tea, we can’t miss its unique cultivation method.
Hsinchu and Miaoli in Taiwan are the primary producing regions of Dongfang Meiren tea. These two places are close so that the teas have no difference in flavor. The source leaves mainly from a Camellia Sinensis called “QingXin DaMao,” which belongs to the small-leaf type. And tea masters usually blend with some Qingxin Oolong leaves in. Both of them are not the local plant but brought by the Fujian immigrants.
Typically, during tea tree cultivation, farmers will use pesticides to prevent insect damage. But Dongfang Meiren is the opposite; it entirely not use any pesticides and prefers the bugs to bite their leaves. It can be said that the excellent quality of Dongfang Meiren tea is all comes from the bug’s bite.
These bugs are called Jacobiasca formosana. They are small and green, and it’s hard to find them on the leaves. Camellia Sinensis is one of their favorite plants. They got a mouthpart like a mosquito, pierce into the leaves, salivate and suck the juice. Once the tea tree leaves are bitten by the bugs, they may get some brown spots, then withered and fall.
But the Qingxin Damao type got a self-defense system, which will activate after the Jacobiasca formosana bites, and secretes some aromatics which take Jasmonic Acid as the base. These aromatics will attract the Jacobiasca formosana’s natural enemy(like bees) to expel them and also react with the bugs’ saliva, forming the uniquely fruity honey flavor after deeply fermentation.
However, this marvelous cultivation method also got some obvious disadvantages.
First, except for the Qingxin Damao tea tree, currently known, most other types do not have this self-protection mechanism. So this method can’t apply to other tea tree types to produce such high-quality tea.
Secondly, the Qingxin Damao tea tree and Jacobiasca formosanas both have a specific need for the growing environment and the seasons. The bugs are active in the summer, so that the leaves must pick at that time. It is widely believed that the leaves pick in summer are not as high-quality as the spring ones. And the sunshine duration is longer in summer, and the leaves got a heavy astringent taste; it makes Dongfang Meiren tea need to be deeply fermenting to change it into a full fragrant.
Besides, the bugs’ activity degree and the part they bite the leaves are hard to control artificially. It may come to a situation that some parts are bitten to broke, and some parts are not bitten at all.
Third, the plant needs the Jacobiasca formosana’s help, so tea farmers will absolutely not use the pesticides during the cultivation. In this case, other insects also breed and easily lead to a plague. Other insects can not trigger the tea plants’ self-protection mechanism and without any help to improve the tea flavor.
With these disadvantages, Dongfang Meiren tea’s planting cost getting very high, and the yield and the quality are instability. It also leads to a high price. Most of the Dongfang Meiren tea sold on the market may not be authentic.
How To Make Dongfang Meiren Tea
Dongfang Meiren tea had been deeply fermented, hot water can extract its high-aroma more easily, and it is also very resistant to brew.
- Prepare and pre-heat the teawares. The porcelain Gaiwan with excellent heat-conducting property is a good choice;
- Put 5g Dongfang Meiren tea into the Gaiwan, add boiled water, and steep for about 10 seconds, make the leaves damp and spreading, then pour the wastewater away. Adding water gently, don’t flush the fuzz away;
- Refill 95-100℃ water in, cover, steep for about 30 seconds;
- Pour the infusion into a fair cup to make equal;
- Dongfang Meiren tea can be brewed up to 7-8 times, even more. After the first brew, you can extend the steeping time for about 5 seconds every following;
- To Oolong tea, cold-brew is also a popular making way; but to the rare Dongfang Meiren tea, it may be a waste;