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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 | 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