Award Winning Alishan High Mountain Oolong | Eco-Cha Tea Club
May 05, 2016
Andy takes a stroll onto the highest tea garden on the hill above Zhangshuhu in Alishan Country.
The Alishan mountain range is the southernmost renowned place name of Taiwan's world famous High Mountain Oolong Tea. The Tropic of Cancer runs straight through this region, and this latitude offers an abundance of a unique quality of sunlight that is considered ideal for tea cultivation. The warmer, sunnier climate at high elevation is what has given the name Alishan its Oolong fame. Our source has worked closely with a handful of farmers in this region for years to cultivate and process a quality of tea that has won him numerous awards in various tea competitions of Central Taiwan.
The Farmers' Associations in the Alishan region have adjusted their competition standards in recent years from a very green, unroasted quality to a slightly mellowed, more balanced, full-bodied and minimally roasted quality. In our experience, when Qing Xin Oolong leaves cultivated at sufficient elevation (beginning at 1100m) and processed with skill and attention to achieve optimal oxidation, they are brought to their potential in quality and substance. These sufficiently oxidized leaves are further cured by a delicate roasting that brings out more subtle flavors and offers a mild, yet complex and exceptionally balanced brew.
Andy's snapshot from a tea factory window in Taihe, just down the hill from Zhangshuhu.
The initial wave of High Mountain Tea popularity that began over 20 years ago made the greener, minimally oxidized, unroasted type the the tea of choice. This was mainly due to marketing a product that is more easily produced in high volume, as it is less labor-intensive and requires less finesse to provide a consistent quality. Thanks to the tea professionals at the Tea Research And Extension Station in cooperation with local farmers' associations, recent trends have accentuated the special qualities of each tea producing region, based on their history and agricultural potential. We are confident in saying that the tea being made in the Alishan region by tea makers following the recently set standards of local competitions is superior to the commercialized greener oolongs with minimal oxidation and no post production roasting.
This batch of tea is made from Qing Xin Oolong tea leaves cultivated in the Alishan region and prepared for local competitions in Alishan and Meishan Townships. It is a combination of last winter's harvest from four separate high elevation tea gardens in the Alishan region. After receiving the competition results, our source uses the small amounts of surplus tea leaves from each entry that achieved awards to offer to his friends and local customers. He combines these remaining amounts of tea leaves of very similar quality and character and delicately roasts them to achieve a balanced flavor and consistency. The overall amount of this combined batch was just enough to share with our tea club members. This is why we created this exclusive tea club, to share these unique batches of premium quality tea that are just too small for public sale.
Our friend who shared this batch with us says their is no significant difference in the degree of roasting between the initial competition batches and this combined batch. We feel that this combination of award winning teas of the same competition standards that have been subtly roasted to achieve an integrated consistency offers a substance and quality that surpasses the individual batches on their own. It is an exceptionally smooth and balanced High Mountain Oolong that leaves us spellbound by its fresh yet full-bodied and integrated character.
A well-worn rack of hand-woven bamboo trays that are used for the critical indoor withering phase of processing Oolong tea. The tea leaves are shuffled by hand on these trays at intervals spanning many hours to achieve the desired oxidation effect. These trays are often no longer used in large modern tea factories.
We look forward to hearing your experience of this unique blend of award winning batches of Alishan High Mountain Oolong. Share your words, photos, and/or videos of tasting this tea with your fellow club members!
Batch #50 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club starts off 2020 with a freshly harvested Alishan High Mountain Oolong Winter Tea from our ongoing source in Meishan Township. This very small batch of tea was their final day of winter harvest. The leaves were not yet fully mature, and offer a fresh, distinctly aromatic and complex flavor profile.
The photo above is this month's batch of the Eco-Cha Tea Club undergoing solar withering on November 11, 2019. This was the final day of winter harvest for our source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, and we were able to procure enough of this very minimal batch to share with our Tea Club. This date was 3 days after Li Dong (立冬) in the lunar calendar, and the winter harvest of High Mountain Tea had for the most part been completed in central Taiwan.
This summer 2017 crop of naturally cultivated and well bug bitten and matured leaves were processed as a traditional Oolong, which mainly means that they were well oxidized. The work that went into oxidizing these leaves was considerable as well as skillful. The leaves needed to be worked, and they got worked well! The result is a full-bodied, substantial brew that offers a very satisfying balance that starts with a mild smokiness, leading into a fruity body with mineral notes, and finishing with something reminiscent of old school Charms lollipops. It really does have a distinct plum powder/confectioner's sugar finishing note that is cushioned by that smoky mineral base. It's a mouthful!