SPECIALTY TEA OF
There are many parallels between specialty tea and wine. They are both potable formations where tasters can sense their terroir and origin; different aromatic and flavorful expressions develop from distinct cultivars and how it was artisanally crafted. Since the 19th Century, Formosa Oolong, a range of semi-oxidized teas from the island that holds its modern name as Taiwan, has been praised as "The Champagne of Teas" for its delicate taste.
Generally speaking, tea tends to taste brighter and fresher when the oxidation level
is low (Green tea: nearly non-oxidized); and by raising the oxidation, tea could become creamier and sweeter (Black tea: almost full-oxidized). Oolong Tea is the spectrum of a rainbow between Green and Black. It shares similar magical properties with wine in that many notes and flavors can be discerned in a single sip.
Twelve signature types of specialty tea classified by the distinguish crafting techniques had their developments interwoven with the history of Taiwan in the last 400 years. They are Green Tea, White Tea, PauTsiong, Light Oxidized Rolled Oolong, Roasted Rolled Oolong, Iron Goddess, Oriental Beauty, Black Oolong, Black Tea, Scented Tea, Stuffed Tea, and other scientifically-orientated types such as GABA Oolong. (Re-)Roasting, (Re-)Pressing, and Aging are three post-crafting skills that also set tea production in Taiwan apart from many other regions, they can be applied to most of the Taiwanese teas thus further transforming a tea into an unmatched craft.
Taiwan Formosa, a label
for gourmet tea over
the last hundreds of years.
Landscapes contribute to the development of tea production
Taiwan, an island the size of Belgium, possesses a vast diversity of landscapes from mountainous areas to low-lying coasts. It is a tropical island (approximately 70% of its land) in the Pacific Ocean and has the fourth highest peak among all the islands in the world. Taiwan falls in a zone where the tropic is intertwined with the temperate. Although most part of the island is immersed in warm and humid weather year-round, snow sight can still be found on crests. With these environmental characteristics, Taiwan has been a magnificent playground for tea farmers, teamakers, and tea sommeliers to skill about tea since the 1600s.
The elevation is one of the critical terroir factors for tea production. Tea from tea plants/trees cultivated between 1,000 and 2,614 meters above sea level is categorized as “High Mountain Teas 高山茶” in Taiwan (For comparison, Darjeeling grows tea at altitudes ranging from 600 to 2,000 meters). High Mountain Teas are one of the most sought-after types of tea developed on this island since the ’70s. At such a high elevation, the tea is exposed to cooler temperatures and shielded from the sun by mists in the afternoon. Tea trees cultivated in such terroir grow slow, forcing the plant to accumulate more Theanines (compounds that give umami flavor to the tea) and less Polyphenol content including Catechins (compounds that creates bitterness in tea). The Taiwanese High Mountain Teas taste sweeter and creamier and are typified by their long, rich finish lingering in the throat...