Teas grown in Taiwan have many fans, both on the island and overseas, but few are more avid than Stephen Carroll. When Carroll, a Briton who has lived in Australia for many years, encountered Taiwanese Oolong in 2012, it was love at first sip.
"My first thought was that I'd never before tried a tea that tasted
of tea as well as what I could only describe as flowers," he recalls. "I
had to learn a new sensory vocabulary for this sort of tea. I thought
to myself: 'How can leaves from one bush produce such a panoply of
neurological inputs?' The experience was rewarding for my nose, tongue,
mouth, and throat."
Glenn Shark, an American connoisseur of Taiwan teas,
does not hesitate to describe the island's high-mountain Oolongs as
"the champagnes of tea." He attributes their tremendous quality to
natural factors: "Taiwan is the only tea- growing country that combines
high-altitude climate, mineral-rich volcanic soil, and close proximity
to moist, ocean air currents. This causes slower plant growth and
results in sweeter, aromatic teas with a distinctive dry aftertaste."
"Taiwan Oolongs include a larger span of leaf styles and oxidation
levels than their Chinese Oolong cousins, giving tea enthusiasts more
delicious choices to explore," asserts The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A
Guide to the World's Best Teas by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss. In
Alishan, Lishan and Shanlinxi, the book goes on to state: "The tea
bushes yield relatively small quantities of astoundingly good tea...
Despite their high cost, many [high mountain teas] never leave Taiwan,
as they are spoken for year after year by Taiwanese customers loyal to
these artisan farmers."
The vast majority of Taiwanese teas are made from the leaves and leaf
buds of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. Indian teas come from a
different strain, Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Whether a tea is
classed as green, black, or Oolong depends largely on the degree of
oxidation. For green teas, the leaves are minimally oxidized. Black teas
are fully oxidized, while Oolongs are withered under the sun and partly
oxidized. Over the past few decades, Taiwan's tea producers have
gradually shifted away from black tea and focused more and more on
The complete article is here. The photo shows a tea plantation near Dabang, an aboriginal village not far from Alishan.
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