Tea jassid, Jacobiasca formosaa, is a pale green little insect belonging to the family Cicadellidae. You see them among cotton trees and camellia sinensis species (tea trees). It’s noted that they are very sensitive to chemical and pollution. So only an organic farming practice can co-exist with them. They thrive in a pollution-free environment. They prefer warm and humid climate. When the bug nibbles on the leaves and stems of the tea trees, it triggers the tea trees to produce more monoterpene idol and hotrienol, which then give the processed tea a honey like sweetness.
Honey black tea
The eastern part of Taiwan, such as Hualien and Taitung, is very well known for its production of honey black tea. Common cultivar include ruanzhi (chin-shin-oolong, 青心烏龍), TTES #12 (Jinxuan, 金萱), TTES #13 (Cuiyu, 翠玉) and chin-shin-ganzai (青心柑仔).
Honeybrook from our shop is a honey black tea from Pinling, Tawian, which is on the northern part of Taiwan. The cultivar is TTES #12 which gives this tea a hint of vanilla and creaminess.
Oriental Beauty’s premium tea reputation dates back to the Japanese colonial era of Taiwan and was given its name by Queen Elizabeth II of England. Unlike Honey Black Tea, this tea is only partially fermented to about 60~80%. Common cultivar include chin-shin-dapan 青心大冇, ruanzhi (chin-shin-oolong, 青心烏龍), manzhong 慢種, TTES #12 (Jinxuan, 金萱), TTES #13 (Cuiyu, 翠玉). It is said chin-shin-dapan produces the best quality of Oriental Beauty..
Leaves for oriental beauty are usually picked in the summer. Farmers carefully selected one-tip two-leaf, including what’s also known as FOP, OP and pekoe, for the delicate flavor of oriental beauty. Finished tea has a tint of rust with white to yellow tips.
Eastern Beauty from our shop is a classic oriental beauty picked from the cultivar of manzhong, a cultivar known for budding late into the heap of summer when the jassids are populous.
Dry aroma from both tea shows a scent of fresh honey. The honey scent on Honeybrook is really heavy, but yet at the same time more one dimensional, whereas Eastern Beauty may have a more subtle honey aroma, but it also carries a lovely wild flower aroma and scent of ripe fruit.
Honeybrook tea shows a deep red color, as it’s usually fully fermented. The tea reflects its honey aroma with a creamy finish that reminds you of vanilla. Eastern Beauty is comparatively more delicate and much more complex. It has more acidity, more subtle on the overall sweetness, but is more uplifting and elegant.
Linalool refers to two enantiomers of a naturally occurring terpene alcohol found in many flowers and spice plants.* In 1990, a Japanese researcher Akio Kobayashi 小林彰夫 conducted a test on Oriental Beauty tea and held a comparison between Oriental Beauty and other oolong teas and black tea that had not experienced the presence of tea jassids. Kobayashi found that Oriental Beauty contains a lot of linalool. The linalool I and linalool II content is almost ten times more than tea that has not been beaten by tea jassids. Oriental Beauty teas is also rish in 3,7-dimethyl-1,5,7-octatrien-3-ol, which in the highest reading was almost 20 times more than other teas.
Kobayashi revisited this research again in 1996 to include samples of Honey Black Tea in the comparison. As consistent to his early test, both Oriental Beauty and Honey Black Tea shows a much higher content of 3,7-dimethyl-1,5,7-octatrien-3-ol. He also discovered that both teas has high level of 2,6-dimethyl-3,7-octadiene-2,6-diol, especially in Oriental Beauty. While other non beaten teas show very little traces of this alcohol.
He concluded that 2,6-dimethyl-3,7-octadiene-2,6-diol (due to the abnormal metabolism of the tea trees from the insect bites) and 3,7-dimethyl-1,5,7-octatrien-3-ol (occurs during the dehydration phase of tea production) are what give Oriental Beauty and Honey Black Tea their muscat flavor.
A Chinese tea scholar and author Zongmao Chen 陳宗懋 took a closer look at 2,6-dimethyl-3,7-octadiene-2,6-diol and has an interesting theory on why the tea trees produces this particular compound after beaten by tea jassids. He discovered this particular alcohol attracts Evarcha albaria, a natural predator of tea jassids. In other words, after being beaten by tea jassids, the tea trees produce this chemical to “call out”to Evarcha albaria for pest control.
He went further to experiment when using machines to simulate bites on leaves, the tea trees produce a different chemical for self defense. But when samples of tea jassid secretion were introduced to the mechanical needles of the simulation, the tea trees once again, started producing 2,6-dimethyl-3,7-octadiene-2,6-diol, proving it is indeed produced to the presence of tea jassids.**
Nature is fascinating and complicated. Through the collection of human experiences and the history of tea culture. We’ve managed to turn one species’ protective response to threats into a delicious nectar that brings us joy.
** 吳聲舜 蜜香茶的祕密