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What is Oriental Beauty Tea?

Woman brewing the oolong tea.


Without a doubt, Oriental Beauty Tea or Dongfang Meiren (Mandarin) is oolong tea at its finest. The drink’s floral fragrance and fruity taste are bound to captivate your taste buds like no other — even if you’re a tea first-timer. While there may be a thousand and one myths and legends attached to Oriental Beauty Tea, one thing’s certain. Its superior attributes can be traced to its one-of-a-kind nature: it’s a bug- bitten tea cultured by the best in the world.

Coming from the rolling hills of Taiwan’s Hsinchu County, known the world over as the tea capital of the planet, Oriental Beauty Tea is a miracle of sorts. Who would think that a small Leafhopper insect a quarter of an inch in size can have such a dramatic effect on the tea leaves? But let’s not forget. Accidental as its origins are, this world-renowned tea came to life only under the centuries old tradition of hard work and discipline embodied by diligent Taiwanese farmers.

Cherish the tea trumpeted by tea buffs as braggart’s tea or Pengfeng Cha (Mandarin) for its superior taste. In the process, learn how nature’s miracle insects left an indelible mark on the tea leaves to create a mesmerizing full-bodied tea. Allow such essence to spread an unforgettable essence in your nose and pharynx. Best of all, let Oriental Beauty Tea can be your gateway to greater health and beyond. Read on.

Truth be told, the history of tea started thousands of years ago in China, most likely in the Yunnan region, during the Shang dynasty (around 1675 BC) — historically known as the Yin dynasty. However, it was not until the 3rd century AD that a credible record of tea drinking courtesy of Hua Tuo, a notable Chinese physician, appeared.

But when you talk about Oolong tea, you can’t rightfully finish such a conversation without mentioning Taiwan. All that started more than 200 years ago when a slew of tea trees was directly imported from the Fujian Province and cultivated in Northern Taiwan, then a country known as Formosa.

That decision proved to be most timely. Taiwan harbored the perfect conditions to produce the world’s best-tasting tea. We’re talking about the climate, the soil on which the shrubs grow, and the unrivaled production techniques. And the most famous of these teas are those that come from the mountains where the shrubs enjoy cooler climates and protection from the sun via perpetual mists.

Today, Taiwan is dubbed as the source of the planet’s best Oolong and green tea, two of the world’s most prized high-mountain teas. Top of that list is Oriental Beauty Tea, an Oolong tea notable for its honey-like taste and floral scent. To note, it is estimated that 20% of the world’s consumption of Oolong tea comes from Taiwan.

In the late 19th century, as the market of teas became more competitive, Taiwan’s trust was to produce specialty tea. The government held regular tea competitions to boost the crop’s marketability. It was in one of those competitions in the 1930s that Dongfang Meiren rose to conquer tea drinker’s hearts the world over.

Add to the mix the ingenuity of a diligent Taiwanese farmer making the most of bug- bitten tea leaves, and you have arguably the world’s most loved tea, Oriental Beauty Tea.

These are the names by which Oriental Beauty Tea, Taiwan’s most celebrated tea, goes by. Originally, the tea is called “Eastern Beauty” or Dongfang Meiren in Mandarin, the national language in Taiwan where this distinct tea brew was initially concocted and perfected.

Specifically, Oriental Beauty is produced in Hsinchu County in Taiwan. It’s cultivated in the rolling hills of Hsinchu between 300 to 800 meters above sea level, just the perfect environment to provide an ample supply of humidity and sunlight for tea to grow at its best.

What makes Oriental Beauty Tea the most famous Oolong tea to come out of Taiwan is its distinguished fruity aroma and sweeter-than-usual honey-like taste. What many don’t realize is Oriental is an insect tea, produced by leaves bitten by the tea jassid (Empoasca onukii) commonly known as the leafhopper. Alternatively, the bug is also scientifically known as Jacobiasca formosana.

After being bug-bitten, the tea leaves turn yellow and at the same time filled with white dots. Hence, the other name for Oriental Beauty is White Tip Oolong or Bai Hao Oolong in Mandarin. As a reaction, terpenes - or highly aromatic compounds that determine the smell of plants - get released in the bitten leaves, creating this tea’s honey-like taste.

Additionally, tea farmers noticed that insect-bitten tea leave contain five colors: red, white, green, yellow, and brown. Hence the name Five Color Oolong came through for Oriental Beauty Tea.

It was not until 1933 that Oriental Beauty was available commercially. It caught people’s attention when this sweet tea won in a tea competition, a marketing effort by the government of Taiwan to produce the best tea from the region. Wildly captivated by the tea’s unusually refined taste, the market - the governor’s office including - chose to pay a much greater price for it, even way steeper than most tea ever produced.

And as farmers boast of their success, the tea came to be known also as “Braggart’s Tea” or in Mandarin Pengfeng Cha. Additionally, as its fame spread, tea drinkers noted that the semi-oxidized tea tastes much like liquor with the tea leaves bright reddish in color. Those traits earned the tea another common nickname “Champagne oolong”.

Plus, the damage done by the insects needs to be not as extensive or the tea leaves would not yield the right taste. Definitely, it’s a delicate balance.

All this tells us there is a greater need to monitor the production right. And why Oriental Beauty Tea commands a price higher than most tea. Not only is it hard to come by but also the process itself is more taxing than most teas.

Science has shown that when the tea jassid sucks the phloem juices of the tea leaves, the tea plant produces hotrienol and monoterpene diol as a defensive reaction. In the process, you get an Oolong tea with a flavor of ripened fruit and honey.

Moreover, the tea buds turn from green to white along the edges once bitten by the bug. It’s why Oriental Beauty Tea is also called white-tip oolong.

It’s apparent that the whole process is a meticulous one. Not only are hoppers seasonal, but also one must be careful these bugs inject just the right damage. Too much damage and everything comes to naught.

Added to all that, the oxidation process must be carefully supervised. Take note that Oolongs are partly oxidized tea leaves, unlike green teas which come as fresh as can be.

Certainly, such parameters add to the farmer’s benchmark and due diligence. It also shows why the best tea the world has to offer comes from the high mountains of Taiwan. Not only do you have the best environment to grow tea, but also you have unmatched centuries-long expertise passed from one generation to the next.

Oolongs provide just the perfect oxidation to create Oriental Beauty Tea. Farmers, for years now, have experimented with bug-bitten green tea but to no avail.

Also, inspired by Dongfang meiren’s success, makers of other tea types, namely Dongding Oolong and East Coast black tea, are doing away with harmful pesticides. India’s Darjeeling tea (second flush) has also benefited from the similar action of tea jassids.

Like any tea, Oolong comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant — an evergreen shrub (small tree) species in the Theaceae family. Take note that although many would consider Oolong like green tea, it actually falls between green and black tea. Black is the most oxidized and green is the least organized. In graph form:

classification chart of tea

But Oriental Beauty is no ordinary Oolong. What makes Dongfang meiren stand a head taller than most Oolong is its distinguished taste and aroma. For starters, this brew has a sweet, fruity aroma that lingers in your nostrils far longer and speaks of sweetness. Even better, it has a honey-like taste that’s bound to leave a sweet taste in your mouth.

In short, it’s an Oolong tea like no other. Put in the mix its superior health benefits and you know sipping a cup of Oriental Beauty Tea is adding life to your years.


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