Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Traditional roast vs "new" light roast

Consumers are leaders of trend in tea, as in everything else in this world, be it fashion or life style. In recent days - less than 20 years, Qing Xiang (light fragrance) oolong has crept up market share to dominate in current market. Many old timer tea drinkers are complaining the new trend is digressing from the traditional. From an industrial point of view, producers will always make anything to meet market needs. You can roast all the tea you want in traditional roasting, and try as hard as you can to push for a sale, but if consumers do not buy, there is nothing you can do but to bend your wills. Tea producers and merchants have to make sales to make profits to put a roof over their head and take some bacon home to feed their wives and children.

So why do most consumers prefer Qing Xiang teas? It has to do with drinking habits of the majority population. Oolong tea did not travel far into inland of China before modern transportation. Out of all the tea producing regions, Fujian and Guang Dong are small and limited with production. Most teas from the 2 regions were sold to foreign countries with seaports right at home. What do the rest of the country drink, even today? Green tea and flower scented teas! Habit is something you grow up accustom to, with little incentive or need to change. When oolong is not known or available, green tea drinking habit is unshakable. However, modern day trading is effective and fast, mobility of tea allows green tea drinkers to have a taste of oolong, pu-erh, liu an and even dajeeling in China. Habit is hard to change for many, green tea drinker will have a hard time adopting the taste of heavy roasted flavors. Facing a large market aim at green tea drinkers, either produce something lighter in flavor resembling green tea or leave that segment of market. As good business men that Chinese are, new products are created to meet the demand. There is nothing wrong with that. There are demands all across the spectrum of the roasting degree during any time space, now, then and later, just the mater of more or less. Even the concept of "new" for qing xiang is not new.

Combing through dozens Qing Xiang oolong to find one traditional roast is a chore I admit. But it's not extincted. Like searching for any good tea, it takes effort. There is always an other way to accomplish your goal, roast your own tea! This is actually much easier to achieve than finding fundamentally good quality tea - good raw materials to process into superior flavorful tea.

Advantage of traditional roast: longer shelf life, more complex flavor and texture, suitable for aging, easy on stomach.

Advantage of light roast: floral fragrance, easy to drink for green tea drinkers, shelf life is shorter but no longer an issue due to new economic power with more disposable income.

No comments: