There’s oolong tea, and there’s high-mountain oolong tea. The two may sound similar, but there’s a distinction. And if you’re serious about wanting to make your oolong experience as worthy of your time as possible, Taiwan’s high-mountain oolong should be your choice cuppa.
Indeed, there must be magic in these mountains as Taiwan’s oolong is spreading to the world like wildfire. Not only will the drink beckon you with its sweet, flowery aroma, but the smooth sweetness sans the bitterness is evident in the taste, making you beg for more.
And that’s not all there is to it. The oolong straight from the high mountains of Taiwan is filled to the brim with an army of polyphenols and antioxidants — all the healthy goodness you deserve.
In this post, we’re going to show you three trade secrets of how Taiwan's high-mountain oolong tea has become the most-coveted tea on the planet. In the process, we’re going to let you peek at what’s behind this particular high altitude on the globe that makes it the perfect breeding ground for a sumptuous nootropic drink for everyone in the family. Read on.
Location, Location, Location
Where is Taiwan? Looking at the map (courtesy of Burning Compass), it’s a small island on the planet, dwarfed by China. The nation of over 23 million inhabitants is approximately 35,980 sq km — or roughly about three times smaller than New York.
But there may not be a better place to cultivate Camilla Sinensis leaves for oolong tea than Taiwan. Below are three compelling reasons why these ranges are ideal:
Let’s face it. The higher you go, the harder you need to work to get up there. Real estate developers and contractors know this; reason enough why building skyscrapers is no joke.
The same holds true for tea shrubs. While growing them at sea level seems natural, cultivating Camella Sinensis at elevated levels is key to producing a superior cuppa.
Taiwan is considered a land with the most high mountains in the world. Such a large density of high mountains allows the island to occupy a unique position in the tea industry.
To date, Taiwan has over 200 mountain peaks.
Table 1: Five Major Mountain Ranges of Taiwan Main Island
Though it may not be able to compete in terms of the number of tea produced with its giant neighbor, it can compete in terms of quality. Small wonder the island is the top producer of the best oolong on the planet.
Take note that Taiwan's high-mountain tea can be grown as high as 5,000 feet. That certainly is high, considering the logistics you must undertake to produce top-quality plants.
Now, if we put things in perspective. 5,000 feet is even higher than the tallest building on the planet: Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,716.5 feet.
Think about it. If residents in the tallest free-standing structure in the world would complain if the elevator is stuck, you can imagine the kind of work these high-mountain oolongs of Taiwan require.
Unbeatable Foggy Weather
There’s a method to the madness. Yes, it may seem like stupidity to grow tea at such a high altitude. Why do it then?
The answer goes back to the kind of tea grown on the island.
Aside from the large density of high mountains, Taiwan has a unique climate with its subtropical temperature range. Another essential part is that the land is wrapped with many patches of fog all year round, not to mention thick, white clouds.
All in all, it’s a combination that’s just perfect for growing teas with a superior aroma, complete with a floral-honey taste.
Of course, the higher you go, the colder it becomes. Those thick, white clouds are effective in blocking out the sun’s rays. So growing tea at higher altitudes results in better-tasting tea leaves.
Indeed, it’s all about finding the best environment to grow tea. Appropriate conditions mean making the most of light, moisture, and heat. With the intensity of light drops for a bit, nitrogen compounds production in the tea’s small leaves increases while the production of carbon compounds also drops.
As a result, you change the taste of the tea leaves for the better. It becomes sweeter in aroma and taste — devoid of bitterness. What’s more, it comes with a creamy aftertaste.
Superior Rich Loam Soil
Another key aspect of Taiwan’s booming tea industry is superior soil. Not only are the steep mountain ranges of the island equipped with unique weather, but these also come with red loam soil.
Such soil is laterite soil common to hot and wet tropical regions. Laterite is most suited for tea cultivation as it’s rich in iron and aluminum. And the distinguishing mark of laterite is its red color. The rusty-red coloration is due to the soil’s high iron oxide content.
Table 2: Tea Production Comparison
It’s no accident the majority of oolong tea production is done in north-western Taiwan. In this regard, knowing where your tea has been harvested is central to knowing the quality of your oolong.
The Unique Processing
Growing superior tea is just one part of the equation; processing it after harvest is another. The two must come together to be able to come up with superior-tasting oolong.
This is where Taiwan’s tea masters have also excelled. It must be acknowledged that tea production on the island is a relatively new trade. Originally, tea can be traced to the Fujian province in Southeastern China in the period of the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). So even the tea in Vietnam and Thailand originated from the giant nation.
The same can be said for Taiwan’s tea, as it originated from China. Relatively new, tea production on the small island started in the 18th century.
Initially, Taiwanese tea masters followed the tricks of the trade they learned from mainland China. But as the industry flourished, these local masters refined the old techniques they were accustomed to and came up with excellent new blends.
Their remarkable craftsmanship has made their oolong tea the most sought-after oolong on the planet today. Below is a bird’s eye view of how uniquely the process is done:
- Taiwan oolong is processed in a green-tea style which translates to lower oxidation and lighter roast. Green teas are fresher as they are less oxidized compared to black tea. On the other hand, China’s oolong is done in black-tea style — more oxidized and heavily roasted, making it dark in color and bitter in taste. Also, this means Chinese oolong is higher in caffeine content.
- Taiwan oolong is hand-harvested, allowing for the end product to be even fresher. This is a distinct advantage. Know that, at the very least, 70% of all tea leaves on the planet are harvested using a motorized machine, with some harvested using mechanical aids such as sickle or hand shears to aid the hand.
- Taiwan harvesting is picky and uses only a bud with two top leaves. That certainly comes with a lot of sacrifices, as that means not all the leaves of the tea shrub can be used.
- Taiwan’s tea industry does not use harmful chemicals. Growers follow a strict protocol of not using pesticides and herbicides to keep the tea growing without harming the environment and the end users.
In the end, it’s all worth it. Taiwan high-mountain oolong’s sweet floral scent and flavor that comes with a creamy aftertaste will capture your taste buds like no other.
WARNING: Beware of fake Taiwan oolong. As in demand as Taiwan’s high-mountain oolong, there are a lot of fakes that are sold on the market. Some mislabel their products to reflect Taiwan when it’s not actually from the island. Make sure you’re getting true Taiwan oolong by getting them from legit companies with known addresses, valid websites, and contact numbers, such as Oriental Tea Box.
Taiwan has become synonymous with quality oolong in a short span of time because of the people behind the products. Certainly, it’s no accident that the island nation was able to catapult itself to the top. Some of the key factors are:
Elon Musk could be drooling in envy. In terms of work ethic, Taiwanese are dubbed “the hardest working people in the world.” A survey by udnjob.com reports many of Taiwan’s workers worked 62 hours every week, with some doing even more.
Of course, that speaks volumes of the level of commitment these people are putting in while growing tea on the high mountains. You’re looking at an army of growers on a mission to give the world the best oolong on the planet.
Government support is one of the major reasons why the Taiwan tea industry has boomed. Indeed, government support can be a game changer. A good example here is how South Korean Pop has become a global phenomenon called Hallyu thanks to the support of its government.
For one, Taiwan has a national program that controls all stages of tea growing in the country. That encompasses harvesting and eventual processing. So, it’s a collective undertaking with a collective vision. With Taiwan government support, the tea industry blossomed, gifting the world a most appealing oolong.
Right from the onset, Taiwan has been very clear about its vision. It wants to create a sustainable tea product. So the nation endeavors to grow tea without harming the environment.
A good example here is the policy not to use pesticides and herbicides. Not only are these chemicals harmful to the environment, but they also pose risks to the end user.
Herbicides, for instance, increase the mortality of plants. Worse, they can have long-term risks such as cancer and kidney damage.
Through its sustainable practices, Taiwan is putting a premium on the planet, not to mention fulfilling a need. It has created a most sought-after oolong that boosts everyone’s health.
Wrapping Things Up
There’s no oolong as sweet and unforgettable as Taiwan’s. Indeed, the island nation’s dedication has paid off — creating a best-tasting oolong that appeals to you in aroma, taste, and even by its aftertaste using its three trade secrets.
Its position is perfect, and the results speak for themselves.
In this regard, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you want to elevate your oolong experience, take a sip from Taiwan’s high-mountain oolong today. And prepare to fall in love like never before.