The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Taiwan's Famous Oolongs - Teas That
Made a Small Country a Big Deal
Taiwan is famous for its oolong teas, and with good reason.  There are many
words that could be used to describe them, but with just one, they are fantastic,
plain and simple.  
The tea industry in Taiwan
began with the arrival of
Fujian immigrants from China,
who made their way across the Taiwan Strait
to the small island.  They arrived in droves,
approximately two million strong when all
was said and done.

Luckily for Taiwan's aboriginal Polynesian
inhabi- tants they didn't arrive empty handed,
but bearing gifts in the form of tea seeds and
tea bush cuttings along with experience
growing and producing tea.

The Fujian immigrants wasted no time in
teaching the native aboriginals how and
where to plant, cultivate, harvest, and manu-
facture what would eventually become some of the world's best oolong teas.

Today Taiwan has a thriving tea industry with approximately 50,000 acres under cultivation, that
is maintained and tended by over 6,000 family owned tea farms.

                                                There are three main
tea growing regions in Taiwan; north, cen-
                                                tral, and southern, with nearly one-third or 17,000 acres of the
                                                nearly 50,000 total acres of tea gardens located in Nantou Coun-
                                                ty, which is also home to one of their most prized and famous
                                                teas, Tung Ting.

                                                
Tung Ting oolong (spelled DongDing in Pinyin) is also called
"Frozen Peak," named for the frozen summit  in view of where it's grown.  Every spring an
annual tea festival is held in Luku township,
one of the main Tung Ting growing areas,
celebrating the prized tea that is at the cen-
ter of a local debate.

Some believe Tung Ting to be the first
oolong tea gardens established by the
Fujianese after their arrival, while others
believe Wenshan BaoZhong came first.  
There is much debate about the subject.

The story behind the debate goes, that in
the latter part of the Qing dynasty (1644-
1911), a tea maker from Fujian Province
made the short trip across the Taiwan Strait
          from China with twelve tea plants
          which were then propagated to estab-
          lish the first tea gardens planted on Tung Ting Mountain.  Without any verifying docu-
          mentation I guess the debate will continue on - so which came first - Tung Ting or
          BaoZhong?  What do
you think?  

                                                           Tung Ting is a
ball-rolled oolong, lightly oxidized (between
                                                           15-25%) with the spring-plucked teas full flavored and
                                                           earthy, and the winter-plucked, light and fruity.

                                                           Next comes Wenshan BaoZhong (or Paper Wrapped
                                                           Oolong) another favorite and one of Taiwan's "greenest"
                                                           oolongs.  This sweet, light tea has the floral flavors of
                                                           
jasmine and gardenia.  The tiny town of PingLing has
                                                           produced BaoZhong for over 120 years, nearly the length
                                                           of Taiwan's entire
tea history.

          During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan during WWII, the
          town of PingLing sent their tea around the Pacific Rim from
          Saigon, to Singapore and Manila, often wrapped in beautiful
          wrapping papers that were decorated with lovely, elaborate
          stamps, hence the name "paper wrapped oolong."

          
Bai Hao oolong (also called Oriental Beauty or White Tip
          oolong) is a northern grown tea distinguishable by the fine white lines or fine white hairs
          against the dark leaf, deliberately caused by a little leaf hopper that starts a chemical
          reaction inside the leaf, helping to develop this tea's character.  Oxidized 35 to 45%, Bai
          Hao has a light honey, peachy flavor, sometimes marketed to the West as Champagne
          Oolong.

                                             
Alishan oolong comes from the famous Alishan Mountains in
                                             southern Taiwan.  This is a ball- shaped High Mountain gao shan
                                             oolong, as is its competition, cousin Li Shan (or Pear Mountain).
                                             Because they grow more slowly in the cool mountain climate,
                                             certain compounds develop in gao shan oolongs, giving them a
                                             heavier, creamy body, yet delicate citrus scents and light floral,
                                             sweet flavors.  They are approximately 25% oxidized.

                                             Formosa oolong is the tea that made Taiwan famous, developed
                                             by the British entrepreneur, John Dodd in the mid 19th century,
                                             marketing it to the U.S. and Europe, making Taiwan's name
          synonomous with quality oolong teas.  Formosa is one of Taiwan's heaviest oxidized
          oolongs at 75% and has a deeper, full-bodied flavor.
Other oolongs from Taiwan include Ti Guan Yin (or Tieguanyin), produced from the same clonal var-
ieties of
Ti Kuan Yin tea bushes originally brought from Fujian Province, China.  Also look for Jin Xuan
oolong, Tianhe oolong, Fulu oolong, and Yu Shan (Jade Mountain) oolong.

Taiwan also produces and exports a small amount of
sencha style green tea to Japan to supple-
ment their demand for
iced tea and ready to drink (RTD) bottled tea drinks.  They also produce
small quantities of Lung Ching (Dragon Well), Pi Lo Chun (or Bi Lo Chun, Bi Lu Chun, or Green Snail
Spring)
green teas.

The area of Sun Moon Lake in central Nantou county also produces black teas as their local
specialty and small
amounts of smoky
Lapsang Souchong teas are also made on the island.

The small island of Taiwan is surely a treasure trove of fine high-quality and flavorful teas.  If you haven't tried oolong
tea yet, then any one of these teas would be a perfect place for you to start.  Once you do I'm sure you'll be singing
their praises, too.  
Enjoy.  
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