Alishan High Mountain Oolong Fall 2020 Tea Sourcing Trip
This was the first stop on the ride out to Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea Country to source the fall harvest. The summer rains had let up, and at least in the mornings, we were pretty sure to stay dry. Although in Taiwan's mountains, it's never sure what the weather will do. Above is "Three Dragons Bridge" leading into the Tai He area of Meishan Township in Chiayi County, which is the northern edge of the Alishan Tea region. Below is the view up the ravine that the bridge crosses over.
It was a beautiful morning, and although the sun was quite strong, it felt so good to be doing what we love most — riding into the hills to source quality Taiwanese Tea! We've ridden this road dozens of times over the last 20+ years, and it never gets old. Each time we take this trip, we see these mountains in a different light. As far as we can recall, this is the first time we stopped at this awesome spot on this bridge!
The second stop was on the Laiji Bridge, where the 149 road crosses the main river bed and heads up into high mountain country. We reminisced about how different it felt 20 years ago, when we first started riding out here. It was so remote and uncharted (in our experience), and on winter tea runs, it was COLD! We would bundle up with long underwear, jeans, and rain gear along with gloves and scarves to stay warm. Now, we are lucky if we even put on our winter coats! Climate change has been most noticeable during winters in Taiwan.
And now, as we sit and write this post, sipping the recent fall harvest from our ongoing source of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, we are reminded of how this batch has somewhat of a winter tea profile. It's more foresty and savory than flowery and sweet, and it has a depth to it. It's a flavor that really makes you want to keep sipping!
The photo above is further south, on the way to Ruili and Ruifeng villages at the upper edge of a large valley that runs down into Zhuqi Township. It's an area that was originally settled at least 100 years ago, and in recent decades has become the source of some of the most popular High Mountain Oolong Tea that Taiwan produces.
We didn't want to push our luck with the good weather, since our ride home a couple months ago was torrential for the second half of it! So we tasted the two days of fall harvest, and easily reached a decision on which we preferred.
The first crop was significantly oxidized to the point of making it suitable for roasting. It was substantial and sweet, but compromised the fresh green notes almost completely. We are pretty sure this was done intentionally to meet the demand of tea merchants who want to make this roasted tea. The farmer was vague in his response to this question. He has a tendency to remain elusive...
The harvest that was just rolled and dried the day before was significantly less oxidized, and has a fresh foresty/savory character that we actually prefer most in a High Mountain Tea.
So we packed up our tea score and left the farm before noon in a successful effort to make it home dry! We will continue doing this as long as we possibly can, simply because riding a motorcycle through the mountains of Taiwan is our favorite thing to do!
If you want to try some of this tea, you can grab some here!
Watch the tasting video to more info about the subtilties of this tea!
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We have become close friends, and this is a unique connection in our 25 years of involvement with tea producers in the local Taiwan tea industry. This farm is a rare resource, given its environment and micro-climate. The owners have faced many challenges and only in the last few years have developed their organic farming to a stable situation. Now, with some support and guidance, we believe they will soon be producing some of the best organic tea in Taiwan!