We stopped to take this pic of the bridge that we call "the gateway to Alishan High Mountain Tea country. It's where you start to see tea gardens scattered across the slopes on either side of the main valley that Route 149 traverses, just above the Alishan River. It was a beautiful morning, after a couple weeks of almost daily rain.
This is where we usually stop for a quick rest, after crossing this bridge over Alishan River. This view has become quite familiar, and for which our love only continues to grow. The road climbs abruptly up from the valley floor leading to the northwestern part of the Alishan Tea growing region, where we have been sourcing tea since 1999.
This is the view of the same mountains as the photo above it, taken from about halfway up the hill. A bit further up the road from here, we take a right turn and head south to the villages of Ruili and Ruifeng to visit the farmers who have become our go to sources.
This year's second crop of Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong began to be harvested last week, before rains that lasted several days. Then resumed earlier this week. We first visited our primary source of Alishan High Mountain Tea to taste their first two days of summer harvest. Jin Xuan is the name of the most popular and commonly cultivated hybrid strain of tea that was introduced by the Tea Research and Extension Station in the 1980's. It is a hardier and more prolific strain that has become popular for its buttery or milky character. This flavor note is most obvious when the leaves are only minimally oxidized, and maintain their fresh green character. This results in a more refined aromatic profile that offers the buttery/creamy notes. Minimal oxidation also results in a much greener, vegetal/grassy character in the flavor profile.
Generally speaking, hotter temperatures during the summer growing season result in higher levels of certain polyphenols, or catechins, in the tea leaves. The difference in the levels of these compounds in summer crops of tea make them more suitable for higher degrees of oxidation in the leaves when processing them. Many tea makers choose to make a more traditional style (i.e. more oxidized) Oolong or Black Tea with their summer crops. Processing summer harvest as a minimally oxidized tea is more susceptible to producing more bitter and astringent notes, due to the higher levels of certain constituents in the leaves. So, many tea makers see it as wise to simply cure their raw produce more — meaning to oxidize the leaves more before drying them. This is the case with the summer batch of tea that we sourced. Although it is still on the minimal oxidation side of the spectrum, it is noticeably more oxidized than our winter and spring crops. This offers a more substantial, balanced, mellowed, and slightly sweeter flavor profile. It maintains is buttery mouthfeel and aftertaste, but is is more subdued. This offers a milder, yet richer character — more fruity than floral, more pastry than milky. We like it this way, and if offers our Jin Xuan lovers a chance to experience what the same produce from the same tea trees can taste like simply by slightly varying the recipe!
So our summer batch of Alishan High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong is relatively more oxidized, but still well within the parameters of being a High Mountain Tea by Taiwan's tea industry standards. It's a very satisfying brew that is both comforting and refreshing. We encourage you to try it as a cold brew, or brew it hot, then refrigerate it to make an amazing additive-free iced tea!
Let us take you into High Mountain Tea county by watching the sourcing video below!
Want to see more of High Mountain Tea country? Check out our earlier post on our sourcing trip to the Li Shan high mountain region!
LET US KNOW!
Please leave a comment in the comments section below or leave any questions you may have about this batch of spring tea.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to hear more about the specialty tea industry here in Taiwan, follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram and please subscribe to our newsletter. Subscribe now and get $5 off your first order!