We are so excited to finally start shouting from the rooftops about a fun and exciting collaboration we have been working on for the past 6 months with our very good tea friends: Cheryl Teo (Flag & Spear) and Tania Stacey (Cuppa Cha).
The first project release. Old Barrel Tea Co. Batch No. 001 Jin Xuan. Isn't the liquor beautiful...you should try some!
Old Barrel Tea Co. started out as a bit of friendly banter between Cheryl & I over a social media post she shared of a barrel aged tea she had acquired from overseas. I casually suggested we should explore doing something like that here in Australia and it finished with Cheryl telling me she may know a whisky distillery we could approach. Little did I know at the time when an idea takes hold in Ms Teo's mind she is going to go for it...and here we are nearly a year down the track from initial discussions.
So started the recruiting to get this project off the ground. Both Cheryl & I are fairly recent tenures in the tea industry game here in Australia so we wanted to bring on someone with experience and a real passion for speciality tea. Fortunately, Tania agreed to come on board with her incredible knowledge of Taiwan oolongs and years of experience being part of the tea scene in Australia.
Cheryl continued to work behind the scenes winning the hearts and minds of Starward to secure a partnership with the Melbourne whisky distillery who generously and enthusiastically allowed us to experiment with one of their ex-aprea casks. We love everything about Starward but felt their forward-thinking approach to whisky aligned perfectly with our own ethos on tea.
Both Tania and Cheryl are whisky lovers and sung the merits of tea and whisky pairing and I have to say that my enthusiasm and knowledge of whisky has increased ten-fold since starting this project.
So why are we so excited about Old Barrel Tea Co. and the release of Batch No. 001 Jn Xuan? Apart from crafting a beautiful Australian whisky scented tea, it helps to shine the spotlight on pure leaf tea and allow it to reach a wider audience.
All of the collaborators on this project specialise, advocate and have a genuine passion for speciality tea. In commencing this project we all agreed that we ultimately wanted to end up with a tea product that enhanced the tea and did not lose the integrity or the original beauty of the tea.
In the process of sampling, eliminating and selecting teas that we would take further into the project we were originally heading down a slightly different path. Research on other barrel ageing projects around the world had seen higher oxidised (e.g., black and red) teas being used so our thoughts were similar in the early days. With barrel scenting being experimental to us all we had no experience in knowing how the tea would behave whilst being aged and scented in the barrel. But after we had spent some time appreciating and understanding Starward's whisky aroma and flavour profile it became clear that a lighter, aromatic and layered oolong such as Jin Xuan oolong would be perfect.
What we didn't expect was to source such an exemplary Jin Xuan thanks to Tania and her wonderful Taiwanese tea farmer friends. The prize-winning winter Jin Xuan oolong that was used for Batch No. 001 was simply stunning. Sourced from Wang's tea garden in Chiayi in the northwestern area of the famous Alishan region of Taiwan. This high mountain oolong should be enough to get you jumping into the store to secure some for yourself!
At this point in the story, full credit must go to the tea maker. We always take time to acknowledge the incredible craftsmanship that goes into the creating pure leaf teas. We have always said that oolongs take true mastery and skill to be able to produce. So here is your tea maker, Mr Wang.
And we strongly encourage you to watch and follow Tania's Cuppa Cha Tea Knowledge YouTube channel to see this tea maker in action. Just phenomenal!
I have much more to share with you on Old Barrel Tea Co. but I feel that this blog post warrants a continuation before it gets too lengthy. When we return from holidays we will follow up with a second instalment.
We must also send a shout out to Justin Bowen who has designed our fabulous logo, thank you!
A limited quantity of Batch No. 001 Jin Xuan was created during this project. Make sure you get a chance to try Australia's first whisky scented tea!