Taiwan, a mountainous island nation, is famous for oolongs, especially high mountain teas. Little has it been know that Taiwan also produces amazing green teas and black teas. In this blog, we'll introduce you to the unique Taiwanese teas one by one.
#1 Alishan Oolong
Alishan Oolong comes from The Greater Alishan Tea Farm Region in and around Alishan Township in Chiayi Province. To put it into perspective, it's the central southern highlands of the island with an altitude of 2190 meters (7190 feet), population of around 5500 and 428 square kilometers. Interestingly, Alishan Township is also part of Alishan National Scenic Area that is well known for it's Alishan Forest Railway and its breathtaking scenic sunrise.
To make matters a bit more confusing, Alishan Mountain Range is the name given to the natural environment of the Alishan Township. Alishan is a combination of '阿里' taken from 'alit' which means ancestor mountain in local first nation languages and '山' simply means mountain.
The government approved 'Greater Alishan Tea Farm Region' runs along Alishan Main Road also known as Taiwan No. 18 Province Road (台18線省道). This greater area includes townships of Alishan, Fanlu, Zuqi, Zhongpu, Dapu and Meishan. The main varietals are Qingxin Oolong 青心烏龍 and Jinxuan Oolong 金萱烏龍.
So, why are Alishan teas so awesome? Alishan is grown around 1000 to 2300 meters altitude. The mountains provide a foggy environment with year long low temperatures that is perfect for qingxin and jinxuan oolong tea plants. Furthermore, clean spring water from the nearby mountains are used for irrigating the tea plants making the teas just that much better.
Our favourite tea farm villages are Zhizuo (Stone Table), Dabang, Tefuye and Ruili. Zhizuo is at 1300-1500 altitude with a year round foggy climate therefore its got a bold 'high mountain qi 高山氣'. The tea leaves are soft, large dried tea balls, heavy in fragrance and has jade green complexions. Dabang and Tefuye are first nation aboriginal villages. They are known for 'forest qi 森林之氣' since it's surrounded by fog with soil that has good ventilation and rich micro-nutrients. The teas produced here are sweeter and smoother than others.
Ruili is our absolute favourite village. This village along with Taixin and Sancun are three important villages since the beginning of Taiwan's tea history. Ruili produces the infamous Jinxuan 'Milky' High Mountain Oolong known for its creamy scent and sweet liquor. The classic foggy climate, temperature difference and humid climate is again, perfect for producing Qingxin Alishan High Mountain Oolong which is famous for its floral fragrance and 'high mountain qi'.
Here we end with a saying we learn from the local indigenous Tsou People.
n. stroll without purpose
Thank you for reading and sippin' tea. Next up, we're heading a tad north for the champagne of oolongs. The clue is in the photo below.