The Perfect Cup: In Search of Oriental Beauty
Workers rigorously pluck leaves with simply the correct quantity of blemishes for Oriental Beauty.

Text and Photography by Bruce Richardson

The street from Taipei rises ever larger into the mountains of Taiwan’s Hsinchu County because it wanders via forest-covered hills and beside deep valleys dotted with occasional properties and farms clinging to the mountainside. I got here to Taiwan on a mission. I used to be in search of the supply of one of the world’s most mysterious teas—a bug-bitten oolong indigenous to those mountains and identified to tea connoisseurs as Oriental Beauty. 

May was about to turn out to be June, and rising temperatures had been nudging tiny leafhoppers to start their annual feasting on succulent, younger tea crops. Nocturnal by nature, these cricket-like bugs swiftly leap, fly, nibble, and conceal all through the tea backyard. In most situations, farmers would act to rid their gardens of these pests, however for tea farmers of northwest Taiwan, these invaders are a welcome sight as a result of their arrival marks the start of the season for making Bai Hao oolong.

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