Tea Learning

Tea Learning

Learn | 5 key elements to making good tea 五項關鍵影響茶的品質

Tea appreciation can be scientific and determined methodologically step by step. Let's break down the elements of a good tea into five categories.

 Tea leaves on tea plants

Tea leaves on tea plants

 tea leaves oxidizing on bamboo baskets

tea leaves oxidizing on bamboo baskets

1. Raw tea and the kind of tea it's suitable for making

Tea varietal and the growth stage of the tea leaves determines the most suitable kind of tea to make. Starting from the top, different tea varietal has different flavours and aroma. Each varietal has different levels of polyphenol, amino acid, caffeine, carbohydrate, and aromatic components. Varietals with larger tea leaves contain more bitter polyphenols so they are suitable for making black tea. Black tea's high oxidization will turn the bitter polyphenols to a less bitter form. Medium and small tea leaves contain less polyphenols so are more suitable for oolongs and green teas.  

2. tea farm environment

Tea environment involves sun, air, soil and water; all the essentials for growing anything. Conditions for daylight hours, strong or weak sunlight, temperature, rainfall, weather, humidity, altitude, latitude and local terrain all further influence the tea quality. Any change of condition causes a stress on the tea plants. For example, high mountain teas are constantly stressed due to cool temperature and possibility of complete ruin caused by frost bites. On lower altitude levels, teas are stressed by conditions such as bug bites, torrential downfalls, high heat and humidity.

3. tea farm maintenance

Tea farms maintenance requires management on fertilizers, pesticides, weed, bug prevention, trimming and irrigation. Proper management and strict cleanliness and health regulations will further improve the quality of the tea. Fertilizers used wrongly not only deteriorate healthy soil, it also worsens the quality and quantity of tea plants. Weed should be managed side by side with tea plants so it can retain water and hold soil together during heavy rain. Tea leaves must not be picked completely so to support the health of the plants and the plants must be trimmed properly to maintain top shape in quality and quantity year by year. 

4. Tea making skills

With everything falling into place and luck of good weather, the raw tea material relies on the technique of tea pickers and tea makers. Different maturity of tea leaves contain different internal property which would determine the kind of tea it is most suitable for. The tea makers must be able to control the processes based on the condition of the raw material and the environment (humidity, temperature, sun, time of day). Tea makers must be able to react and constantly adjust their processing method in order to make the best tea out of the raw teas. Final steps such as getting rid of stems, yellow leaves, roasting and mixing tea will further refine the quality and consistently provide quality product. 

5. Storage

Tea is basically a processed dry good. It needs proper dry storage; away from sunlight and humidity and air. Proper storage will age the teas which will turn the teas into something different and unique from the fresh teas. Aging is generally good for oolongs and black teas and not great for green teas. 

Elements for making a good tea isn't just the elevation, picking only young buds or drinking them fresh within 3 months. It begins from the classical 5 elements; earth, water, air, fire, and aether and extending to the works of everyone involved from trimming, weeding, picking, processing to the final stage of storage. Understand it like planting vegetables and growing trees and making jam, every element involves the other; it's a cycle of nature!

 

Tea Learning

Learn | What are High Mountain Oolong Teas? 什麼是高山茶?

Everybody has heard of high mountain oolong teas. If you are reading this, you probably know a little bit already. High mountain oolongs (Gao Shan oolongs) are made in Taiwan and are the utmost prized kind of Taiwanese tea. A lot of people have asked us about high mountain oolongs so we are here to debunk misleading information, help you understand more about it and learn how to buy them. 

 Tea farms on Chiayi, Ali Mountain area.

Tea farms on Chiayi, Ali Mountain area.

Why are high mountain oolong teas unique? 

Only teas grown above 1000 meters altitude are considered high mountain teas with the highest altitude at 2700 meters in Li Mountain. There are even some people in Taiwan who only consider teas at 1500 meters and above as high mountain teas. The high altitude means that daylight is shorter and there is large temperature difference between day and night. Because it's grown in the mountains, it means that there are more mist conditions. The combination makes the teas grow slower and contains more of what tea connoisseurs call "energy" or more particularly "mountain qi". The exact taste, smells and appearance of teas vary differently depending on the many other factors such as the micro geography, the micro weather, harvest conditions, processing conditions, humidity, and tea masters skills to the point of how customers store them before drinking. Visit our high mountain oolong teas section to discover different flavours.

WHERE DO HIGH MOUNTAIN OOLONG TEAS GROW IN TAIWAN?

The four major areas are Li Mountain area located in Taidung province, Ren'ai and Shan Ling Xi areas in Nantou province, and finally Mei Mountain and Ali Mountain areas in Chiayi province. The highest altitude region is the Li Mountain area. 

Is higher the altitude the better?

No. Absolutely not. Not only does high mountain teas rely on the conditions described preciously, it also relies on the micro geography of the tea farm, the micro weather, harvest conditions, tea master's skills and much more. Which direction does the tea slope face? Did the micro weather create frost? What time of day and what kind of weather did the tea leaves get picked? How was the condition when the tea masters were processing the teas? These are all contributing factors to whether a tea is great. Simply relying on "higher altitude the better" belief will not guarantee the best quality of tea. 

The price for high mountain oolong teas vary vastly, how do I choose?

High mountain oolong teas require intense human care and relies strongly on the weather. Elements such as year, season, regions, particular mountain, tea picking skills, raw material quality, quality of tea makers and the final product of tea will all change the pricing of the teas. To simplify the matter, we broke down the minimum cost of making 600g of tea. 600g is one unit in Taiwanese unit scale called "tai jin".

$250NTD (New Taiwanese Dollar) tea farm management includes rent, growing maintenance, fertilizer and pesticides if farmers use them
$400NTD tea picking costs include tea picking cost, food, transportation and lodging for tea pickers
$250NTD tea making costs include 5-10 tea makers, facility, equipment and transportation
$100NTD  costs for refining tea quality and general production loss

This means that in general, the cost of making tea is a minimum of $1000NTD (which is $41 CAD and $32 USD). This is the cost of the lower altitude high mountain teas (1000m-1100m); the cost increases as the altitude increases. Tea without pesticide and fertilizers will increase the price as the harvest is much less yet more valuable due to health factors. At this point, supply and demand fluctuations, shipping, packaging and profits for the farmers are yet included. Overall, $1800-2800 NTD is the general price range per tai jin from farmers. With these numbers in mind, you have the knowledge to determine whether $10 for 100g is good quality and whether $100 for 100g is a fair price. 

Related subjects such as how to pick tea and the misconception of award winning teas will be posted soon. Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading.

Tea Learning

Learn | Top 6 Reasons to Drink Oolong

6 REASONS TO DRINK OOLONG

Oolong is delicious but do you know the health benefits of drinking oolong teas? We did lots of research and found the top six reasons for you (trust us, we read them all). Here they are!

1. Aid in weight loss. Oolong tea contains polymerized polyphenols (antioxidants) that can aid in weight loss. Studies have shown oolong to be greater calorie burner than green tea. Fat oxidation was significantly higher when subjects consumed tea rather than water.

2. Fight against free radicals. Oolong tea polyphenols can also protect us against the activity of free radicals. All classes of tea share similar antioxidant profiles since they come from the same plant.

3. Strengthen bone structure. Drinking tea daily, especially black and oolong, can bring some long term benefits for bone structure and mineral density. Studies have shown that regular tea drinkers are less likely to lose the minerals from their bones after a period of ten years.

4. Help with type-2 diabetes. Oolong tea can help patients with type-2 diabetes to regulate the amount of blood sugar found in the blood stream. Oolong works well in combination with oral antihyperglycemic medication to prevent dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.

5. Suppress allergic reactions and heal the skin. Certain skin conditions like eczema are related to allergic reactions or sensitivities. Oolong tea is an antioxidant combatant against free radicals which has the ability to suppress allergic reactions and help heal the skin. Oolong consumption in combination with dermatological treatment has been shown to reduce the symptoms of eczema.

6. Lower cholesterol risks. Long-term oolong tea consumption may be associated with a lower risk of dyslipidaemia, lower blood total cholesterol, TAG and LDL-cholesterol levels.

Now that you know all it's benefits (plus, it just tastes so good!). Let's have some oolongs. 

 

References


Rumpler, William, et al. "Oolong tea increases metabolic rate and fat oxidation in men." The Journal of nutrition 131.11 (2001): 2848-2852.
Wang G., Liu G., Zhao H., Zhang F., Li S., Chen Y., Zhang Z. "Oolong tea drinking could help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal Han Chinese women.." Cell Biochem. Biophys.. 70 (2014): 1289-1293.
Kazuaki Hosoda, BS, Ming-Fu Wang, PHD, Mei-Ling Liao, MS, Chin-Kuang Chuang, MD, Miyuki Iha, BS, Beverly Clevidence, PHD and Shigeru Yamamoto, PHD "Antihyperglycemic Effect of Oolong Tea in Type 2 Diabetes.." Diabetes Care. 26 (2003): 1714-1718.
Uehara M., Sugiura H. and Sakurai K. "A trial of oolong tea in the management of recalcitrant atopic dermatitis.." Arch. Dermatol.. 137 (2001): 42-43.
Yi, Deqing, et al. "Reduced risk of dyslipidaemia with oolong tea consumption: a population-based study in southern China." British Journal of Nutrition 111.08 (2014): 1421-1429.
Weerawatanakorn, Monthana, et al. "Chemistry and health beneficial effects of oolong tea and theasinensins." Food Science and Human Wellness 4.4 (2015): 133-146.

Tea Learning

Learn | Health Benefits of Cold Brew Tea

Cold Brew Tea Health Benefits

What's the difference between our cold brew tea and other tea drinks out there? That's a question we get a lot so we're here to tell you point by point!

 
 


1.    Zero calories. Our goal is to offer healthy drink. What's a healthy drink? Zero calories and no additional sweeteners. It's that simple.

2.    Catechin. It's an antioxidant and flavonoid. It helps you fight free radicals and protects you from a number of diseases. Teas contain catechins naturally.

3.    Less tannin. Tannin is what's making teas and wine bitter and complex however, cold brewing  extracts less tannin which means the teas will taste less bitter while maintaining it's complexity. (This is technically not a health benefit but hey, the teas taste better right?)

4.    Less caffeine. Cold water brewing extracts half the normal caffeine amount which means it’ll be better for your stomach and sleeping problems.

5.    Fresh. We source and brew our teas fresh and bottle them raw so you’ll always drink fresh teas that still contain all their health benefits.

6.    Clean. We directly work with Taiwanese tea farmers which means we can make sure the teas are safe and clean for consumption. In addition, we add no extra artificial flavours because we believe in natural flavours and clean drinks.

Enjoy the cold brew tea everybody! 

Tea Learning

Learn | Famous Taiwan Tea #2 Oriental Beauty Oolong

What's the second famous Taiwanese tea on our list? 

#2 Oriental Beauty Oolong 

Let's start with some weird facts. There's multiple names for this tea each with different reasons. Here's what we know,

Yanzai Tea 煙仔茶
Yanzai refers to the green leaf hoppers

Pongfong Tea 澎風茶
Pongfong meaning bluffing because it was sold at high prices when it was thought to be worthless

Oriental Beauty Oolong 東方美人茶
Named by British royalties for it's beautiful colours and shapes. It seemed like a lady dancing in the tea pot.

White Tip Oolong 白毫烏龍
White tip refers to the white buds that are caused by the hoppers

Champagne Oolong 香檳烏龍
A name given for its high status among the oolongs

Five Colour Tea 五色茶
Referring to the 5 colours of the dry leaves

DSC_0714.JPG

Where's the origin? Oriental Beauty Oolong were first made in north western part of Taiwan, at a low altitude of around 600m between the plains and the mountains and mostly by Hakka people. Emei 峨眉, Baosan 寶山 and Beibu 北埔 are the three major production town in Hsinchu, Taiwan. This pesticide free method inspired the creation of 'honey scented black tea' in east coast Taiwan.  

 Old picture of Hsinchu taken early 1900s. 

Old picture of Hsinchu taken early 1900s. 

What makes the tea unique and what's the tea like? The invention of Oriental Beauty Oolong began with green leaf hoppers and a few hardworking Hakka people in Taiwan. Bitten tea leaves are consider ruined but Hakka people, known for their frugal character, decided to make it into tea for the family to drink. Green leaf hoppers populate during summer times in Taiwan. They are about 2.5mm with yellow green body, beige feelers and grey white eyes. Green leaf hoppers feast on the tea leaf juices like vegetarian vampires. The leaves' natural chemistry reaction is to produce more polyphenols and tea tannin. The bitten tea leaves grow slower and curls up while the tea buds turn harder and yellow white in colour. The production process is a rare heavy oxidization at 75~85 % with an additional second oxidization step. The result is a unique one of a kind honey and ripe fruit flavours along with orange and maple leaf tea liquid colours. It's sweet, full body and easy drinking.

Oriental Beauty Oolong is often expensive. Why the high price you ask? Because it takes double the amount of fresh tea leaves to make the same weight of tea compare to other teas. The second reason is because we got to rely on the green leaf hoppers to do the biting!

How do you choose good Oriental Beauty Oolongs? Look for dry tea leaves with multiple colours, red, white, brown and green. And for the top notch Oriental Beauty Oolongs, looks for the extra colour, yellow!

 Oriental Beauty tea brewing in the standard tea cup. Observe the beautiful small brown red leaves dancing in water.

Oriental Beauty tea brewing in the standard tea cup. Observe the beautiful small brown red leaves dancing in water.

 First brew of the tea in standard tea cup. 3 grams of tea in 150ml of 95 Celsius water.

First brew of the tea in standard tea cup. 3 grams of tea in 150ml of 95 Celsius water.

  Second brew of the tea in standard tea cupping    3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. Notice the small leaves and buds. 

Second brew of the tea in standard tea cupping  3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. Notice the small leaves and buds. 

Next time when you see a tea with one of the six names, you'll know what they're talking about! Hope you enjoyed the read. Next time, we'll talk about Baozhong Oolong.

With tea,
Jenny

Tea Learning

Learn | Famous Taiwan Tea #1 Alishan Oolong

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.

 View of Alishan from early 1900s.

View of Alishan from early 1900s.

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 Alisan Oolong dry rolled leaves.

Ruili Alisan Oolong dry rolled leaves.

 Ruili Alishan oolong first brew in standard tea cupping 3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. 

Ruili Alishan oolong first brew in standard tea cupping 3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. 

  Ruili Alishan oolong second brew   in standard tea cupping 3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. 

Ruili Alishan oolong second brew in standard tea cupping 3g / 150ml / 95 Celsius degrees. 

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.

Mimiyo (mi-mi-yo)
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.

With tea,
Jenny