I recently had the pleasure of meeting Tea master David Tsay, and his daughter at his tea space in Taipei. He was a very humble and gracious host. David made me some of his organic tea and I showed him some of the teaware I had made.
We had some conversations about tea varieties commonly used to make oolong tea in Taiwan. We got onto this topic since I told him that several tea growers had told me that real, genuine oolong tea could only be made from the Qing xin oolong variety. David gave me a better explanation.
The name "Oolong" has two meanings. One refers to tea plants of the oolong strain. The other refers to the processing tea goes through after being picked. Qing xin oolong is the most common tea strain used in Taiwan as it is prized for it's flavor. The Qing xin oolong strain originated from tea plants of a different name in Fujian province and was brought to Taiwan about 100 years ago. Over time this variety from Fujian developed distinct characteristics of it own and became known as Qing xin oolong.
Farmers in Taiwan say that to make real, authentic oolong only Qing xin oolong can be used. David however said that wonderful oolong teas could also be produced from different tea varieties. Even though Qing xin oolong is the most traditional oolong variety used to make tea in Taiwan, it didn't mean that other tea varieties processed as oolong teas were not real oolongs. I had to agree since the organic oolong tea we were drinking, which David is a huge proponent of was made from the Si Ji Chun (four seasons) variety. Actually because the Si Ji Chun plant is heartier and more resistant to insects, it is a good strain to use for growing organically.
It was a great pleasure to meet tea master David Tsay. He made wonderful tea and was very gracious. He had some wonderful suggestions regarding teaware as well and offered to work with me in the future in developing my pottery which would be a huge honor for me.