The Tea Jassid or Small Green Leafhopper, Jacobiasca formosana, is responsible for a large part of this ‘Incredible tea’. Sometimes when you see a tea listed as incredible, you can end up a little disappointed; however the effort put into the production of this tea by these little insects help make a tea that any tea drinker will tell you is outstanding.
The Hualien district in the east of Taiwan, facing the immense Pacific to the east and with its back against the Grand Central Mountain Range in the west provide the most perfect climatic and ecological tea-growing conditions. The original name Formosa is from the Latin formosus meaning beautifully formed and was given to the Island by Portuguese sailors, over 400 years ago, who named it ‘Ilha Formosa’, Beautiful Isle.
The Hualien-grown bushes are nibbled by these small indigenous grasshoppers, which causes the leaves to become stunted and then curl up. The magic occurs when the salivary juices and excreta of the grasshoppers, called Honeydew, mixes with the plants juices, yielding a slightly honey-like sweetness to the drink.
After fermentation, these hand-picked and sorted leaves are longish, dark brown with some copper coloured tips and yet still remain curled, as they would have been on the bush. The beautiful shining cup unfolds a scent, similar to an Oolong or a rather malty high grown Sri Lankan tea, but the taste is quite ‘incredible’, sweet but not overly so, strong but still delicate and giving the most complex of experiences. The second infusion I tried is just as superbly rounded and gently sweet as the first.