The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Taiwan-A Small Country That's Big On
Growing Tea
The small island of Taiwan lies directly across the Formosa Strait from tea giant
and number one tea producer, China.  Just 235 miles long and 90 miles wide,
Taiwan is no slouch, either, when it comes to growing tea, producing some of
the world's finest,
high quality oolong.
Most of Taiwan's tea grows in the
central part of the island, the
majority of tea gardens established in the late
19th century by close to two million Chinese
immigrants from
Fujian Province who relocated
there.

Taiwan's terrain and climate are near perfect for
growing high quality tea, with a sub-tropical cli-
mate that brings summer rains to the southern
part of the island and winter rains to the north.

There are approxi-
mately 50,000 acres of
tea planted throughout
the island, with close to
6,000 small family-own-
ed "boutique tea farms," where the owner oversees and runs their
own farm.

                                               Ancestors pass down their individual tea-making skills and secrets
                                               to the next generation, so the future of quality, prized tea pro-
                                               duction will continue on for generations to come.

                                               There are three distinct tea growing regions in Taiwan; north,
                                               southern, and central, with the majority of tea gardens in the
                                               central region.  There are seven prime tea-producing areas, and
with the average temperature a moderate 65F in winter, tea is plucked (and sold) nearly year
round during the five plucking seasons of spring, early summer, late summer, fall and winter.

Just south of the island's bustling capital
city of Taipei, in a quiet mountainside spot
that's free of noise and smog, enshrouded
by a foggy mist, lies the tiny town of Pinglin
where much of the BaoZhong tea crop is
grown.  For over 120 years Pinglin has
proudly produced this tea (also called
Wenshan Baozhong or Paper Wrapped
Oolong).

In fact, Pinglin is so devoted to tea that it
sports several tea factories, a tea museum,
and even its street lamps are in the form of
teapots. Its restaurants even carry on the
tradition, serving many superb dishes made
with BaoZhong.  The nearby townships of
Shiden and Hsintien also produce Wenshan
Baozhong.

                                               Tie Kuan Yin or Tie
                                               Guan Yin, is a regional
                                               specialty of the townships of Mujha and Shihmen that closely re-
                                               sembles Taiwan's most famous oolong,
Tung Ting, made from the
                                               same cultivars as
China's tieguanyin.  Not far from Taipei City is
                                               Taipai City Tie Guan Yin Baozhong Tea Research and Promotion
                                               Center, which arranges tours for visitors to local tea gardens and
                                                tea houses.

                                               In Taiwan's central region lies Nantou county and the surround-
                                               ing townships of Luku and Jhushan.  This area is breathtakingly
beautiful with rolling foothills and forests which lie at the base of Taiwan's famous Central
Mountain Range.  Tea has been cultivated in the town of Luku since the mid-1800's, and it's also
home to Tung Ting (Frozen Peak), Taiwan's most beloved tea. Tung Ting grows within view of
snow capped peaks, where the name "Frozen Peak" originated.

One third of Taiwan's total tea acreage is located in Nantou County.  This is
definitely tea country.  The town of Luku's total population is about 20,000,
of which about 12,000 farm tea.

In 1999 a serious earthquake ravaged the region, killing nearly 3,000 peo-
ple and injuring thousands more, but out of the devastation came Luku's
Farmer's Association Tea Culture Museum.  Each spring Luku has a tea fes-
tival celebrating their most prized tea, Tung Ting.

In addition to the spring festival, an annual tea tasting competition is held
by the county farmers.  Each participant enters a sample of their fresh tea with the grand
champion getting about $2,000 for a "chin" (1.25 pounds) of the winning tea.

                                                Jin Xuan is also produced in the town of Luku, and the town-
                                                ships of Puli and Yuchich also located in Nantou county, pro-
                                                duces small amounts of Sun Moon Lake,
black tea.  The East Rift
                                                Valley which lies to the west of Nantou county in Hualien county
                                                produces Tianhe oolong, a popular high-end tea.

                                                The remote area of Luye township in Taitung county is where
Fulu oolong is grown, in the southernmost region of tea-growing country.  Similar to both
Wenshan Baozhong and Tung Ting oolongs, only small amounts of Fulu oolong is produced.

Bai Hao or Oriental Beauty was one of the first quality oolongs to be ex-
ported to the U.S., arriving about 20 years ago and often marketed to the
West as Champagne Oolong.  Bai Hao is grown mainly in the north in Bepu
and Emei in Hsinchu county and Toufen in Miaoli county.  It is sometiimes
called Pingfang tea in Taiwan.
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The famous peaks of Alishan Mountain in Chiayi county is home to Alishan oolong. To the Taiwan-
ese the mountains are a place of inspiration and contemplation.  Alishan oolong grows above
7,200 feet and was Taiwan's first (and some say best) high altitude gao shan tea.

Other high mountain teas include Li Shan (Pear Mountain), Yu Shan (Jade Mountain), and Gold
Lily made from the Jin Xuan cultivar.

                                  The tea grows in rows on the side of steep mountain slopes making it difficult to harvest.  With
                                  heavy baskets the workers must endure intermittent bouts of rain, wind, or beating down, hot
                                  sun.

                                  Taiwan also produces small amounts of
green tea.  In Sansia, to the southwest of Taipei
                                  comes Lung Ching (Dragon Well) and Pi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring).

                                  
Taiwan is proud of its tea heritage, both past and present.  There are many museums, promo-
                                  tional facilities, and research centers open to visitors, with tours to nearby tea gardens and
                                  tea houses.  In Pinglin, the Taiwan Pinglin Tea Industry Museum offers informational sessions
                                  on tea. There's also the Taoyuan Tea Experimental Station located in Yangmei district that
provides information on the latest advances in tea study and research.  
Enjoy.
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