Taiwan is often described as "The Teashop Island" and it is actually a tea lover's paradise.
While Green tea and black tea are also grown in Taiwan Taiwanese oolong by far the most famous tea from Taiwan. Taiwanese oolong is also very often commonly referred to as Gaoshan (high mountain tea) or Formosa Oolong (Formosa stands for Beautiful Island and is now called Taiwan). You have probably already noticed that these tea names are used alternately in the tea lover community.
The history of tea in Taiwan - in a nutshell
The Camellia Sinensis plants (tea plant) were originally brought to Taiwan from Fujian, China (home of Anxi Tie Guan Yin) in the mid-19th century. Later the Wuyi Mountains Cultivar was also brought to Taiwan and used for the production of Dong Ding Oolong and Baozhong Teas used.
The terroir of Taiwan is ideal for Tea cultivation. In particular, the high mountains of Taiwan, Alishan, Lishan, Shahanlinxi, etc. have become popular cultivation areas for the so-called high mountain tea (> 1,000 meters). Teas from Dayuling, Taiwan's highest tea-growing region, are among the most sought-after teas in the world and demand correspondingly high prices.
Different Shades of Oolong
Due to the broad definition of what makes a successful Oolong = fermented somewhere between 0 and 100%, there is an enormously diverse spectrum of Oolong tea variations.
A very lightly oxidized green tea like Baozhong (<10% oxidation) shows very different properties compared to darker, black tea-like ones Oriental Beauty (~ 75% oxidation). Taiwanese oolongs can also be loosely categorized as green or dark, although many teas are generally made in both variations (i.e. dong ding can be fragrant, but is usually additionally roasted with charcoal). A common term is that High mountain oolong tea which is used to describe tea that has grown to over 1,000 meters.
Green oolongs are the best known and most popular teas in Taiwan. These teas are usually only very lightly fermented (<30%) than their darker relatives. Many green oolong tea lovers would certainly confirm that the roasting process for darker oolongs hides the true character of the tea or underlines the lack of it. For this reason, high mountain tea is processed as green oolong in order to emphasize the character of the tea in all its facets. Green oolongs lose their taste over time and should be consumed quickly or stored carefully. Pay close attention to the harvest time and the shelf life of the tea. However, this does not only apply to green Oolong teas but to all types of tea in general. In the following we will take a closer look at the most famous green oolongs:
This oolong tea is grown in the Alishan mountain region and is the most famous High mountain oolong. The area itself is very extensive and the tea farms extend between 1,000 and 2,300 meters above sea level. This is a good beginner tea for anyone who wants to tap into high-quality tea for sure. As is typical of high mountain oolong, it turns out to be good Alishan tea Picked by hand, rolled and characterized by a creamy, well-rounded taste with floral aromas which fills the mouth for a while.
Zhong Shu Hu (樟樹 湖) and Shi Zuo (阿里) are two tea growing areas in the Alishan area that are often classified as Alishan tea. Most sellers who specialize in Taiwanese teas will offer an Alishan that comes from these cultivation areas.
Lishan Oolong is another very popular high mountain oolong tea that is grown on Lishan Mountain. At 1,600-2,600 meters, the Lishan tea growing areas are significantly higher than the Alishan Oolong tea, which is also reflected in the slightly higher price. One of the most important factors for the special tea quality is the location of the tea Tea plantations which are consistently in cool temperature regions in the mountains. This is very beneficial for slow and even growth of the tea leaves. Along with Shanlinxi and Da Yu Ling Tea (technically a Lishan), Lishan Oolong is usually classified as one of the best high mountain oolongs. Handpicked and rolled, Lishan Oolong shows many of the same properties as other High Mountain Oolong teas (slightly flowery, hearty and creamy). However, its fruity notes are particularly remarkable. Fu Shou Shan (福壽 山) tea represents Lishan Oolong which is grown near the summit of Lishan Mountain at about 2,200 meters. Any tea shop specializing in oolong tea will always have Lishan oolong tea in stock.
Shanlinxi Oolong is something for connoisseurs of lightly fermented high mountain oolong teas and is also named after its growing area. Shanlinxi is grown between 1,200 and 1,900 meters. This mountain landscape is located in a wooded area which is in rain and clouds all year round.
Shanlinxi Oolong is also handpicked and rolled with a clear taste and very little astringency. Longfengxia (龍鳳 峽) teas from Shan Li Xi are particularly popular. Longfengxia refers to the highest peaks in the cultivation region (~ 1,900 meters).
Da Yu Ling Oolong
Da Yu Ling Oolong is the premium high mountain oolong par excellence. The Growing areas you are at an extreme altitude of ~ 2,400-2,500 meters above sea level. The growing area is at the top of Lishan Mountain, Da Yu Ling Oolong tea shows a sweet, clean but complex taste.
95k and 102k are usually attached to this tea, which represents the highway markings within the growing region (Origin Tea explanation). The name of tea is often mentioned together with the abbreviations 95k and 102k. These are nothing more than milestones of the highway in this mountain region. The growing areas for Dayuling 102k are slightly higher than the areas near 95k, which is clearly evident in the price range. Da Yu Ling is in a higher amount than 95k Da Yu Ling, and is usually priced accordingly.
Baozhong tea (or Pouchong) is one of the greenest oolongs with less than 10% oxidation. Baozhong and is known for its twisted leaves and is grown near Ping Ling County at about 500 meters above sea level. Despite the low level of fermentation, Baozhong has a full-bodied body with a deliciously pure taste. The leaves are softer than rolled oolongs because they grow faster, so gaiwans or teapots should only be filled up to ½ to ¾ before brewing. Usually grown from low heights, baozhong quality and price may vary. Baozhong tea is an affordable alternative to the famous high mountain oolong teas.
Jin Xuan - Milky Oolong
Milky Oolong tea is one of the most popular Taiwanese teas because of its bewitching scent and affordable price. The Jin Xuan Cultivar was developed by TRES (Taiwan Research and Extension Station) developed. Jin Xuan Milky Oolong is usually grown at lower altitudes but can be used as high mountain tea. Like most Taiwanese oolong, Milky Oolong is rolled and is both machine and handpicked.
Four Seasons Oolong
Another green oolong for price-conscious tea connoisseurs. Four Seasons Oolong is rolled and can be grown from higher mountains, but is usually and can be grown at lower elevations four times a year harvested.
Another Taiwanese Oolong variety with floral aromas is Four Seasons Oolong and Milky Oolong, and the popular Jade Oolong should be bought for a low price. Like Four Seasons and Jin Xuan, Jade Oolong is commonly grown at lower elevation and developed by TRES (Taiwan Research and Extension Station), making it a popular inexpensive everyday tea. The floral scent of Jade Oolong tea enchants as soon as you smell the cup. Its mild, nutty, fruity flattery caresses the tongue and the palate when tasted gently. Jade Oolong is rolled and usually picked by machine.
Now we come to the dark oolong teas. Although the green oolong teas are familiar to most tea lovers of Taiwanese teas, there are still a number of very interesting dark oolongs which are either fermented for a longer time or also often roasted. Roasting requires a lot of experience in the production process of the tea, which is necessary to emphasize the characteristics of a tea even more. Very often darker types of Oolong teas are stored longer. Ten years and more are not uncommon. Now let's take a closer look at the most famous dark oolongs:
Dong Ding Oolong
Dong Ding Oolong is one of the most famous Taiwanese teas which is traditionally roasted with charcoal. But there are also variations in which Dong Ding Oolong is developed as a green Oolong with floral fragrances.
Dong Ding tea is grown at 700 to 1,000 meters (and therefore not quite a high mountain tea) on Dong Ding Mountain. It originally comes from the Wuyi tea bushes in China from which Baozhong tea is made. Roasting produces a full-bodied, nutty yet sweet taste which is often associated with dong ding. Compared to green oolongs, dong ding oolong is usually oxidized much longer. It is also roasted from light to very strong. Because of its round taste, this tea is also very suitable as an entry-level tea to open up the world of darker Oolong teas for yourself.
Tie Guan Yin (Muzha)
Tie Guan Yin Oolong is produced in both China and Taiwan, however, the processing of the Tieguanyin varieties varies considerably in the two countries. Chinese Tie Guan Yin is grown in Anxi County and usually processed as green oolong and is popular for its fragrant and floral bouquet. In contrast, Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin is roasted more strongly and has a nutty, slightly flowery and full-bodied taste.
Oriental Beauty Oolong
Oriental Beauty Oolong is a truly unique tea and the only Taiwanese tea that is only harvested in summer. Oriental Beauty Oolong is cultivated without the use of pesticides because it is desirable that the Taiwanese cicadas nibble on the leaves of the tea bush. This leads to the fact that the buds turn white and the leaking sap of the leaves immediately oxidizes in the sunlight. The leaves are therefore not rolled and are not roasted, but fermented more strongly than most other Taiwanese oolongs. Oriental Beauty Oolong can also be mistaken for black tea from Darjeeling or Yunnan. In terms of taste, the Oriental Beauty Oolong has a sweet, fruity, honey-like taste. Due to its very elaborate processing, Oriental Beauty has always been a premium tea despite the tea plantations being very low at 300 - 800 meters.
More Taiwanese teas and varieties
Many Taiwanese teas are also called aged (aged) Variant available. have also aged. Aged teas are usually taken out of storage every few years and roasted again by an experienced tea master. Excessive roasting or insufficient roasting of the aged tea can make it completely inedible. Aged Tea is particularly suitable to enjoy it in the evening or at night because almost all of the caffeine in the tea has left the tea leaves over the years.
There are also several other types of Taiwanese oolongs that have not been covered in this post. For example: Hong Cha, Fo Shou (Buddha's hand), Gabalong, Hong Shui, Gui Fei, and Ruby # 18
An overview of all teas from Taiwan that are available here in the Evergreen Teashop you'll find here:
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