How High Mountain Oolong Tea is Sourced

April 25, 2020 2 Comments

How do we sustainably source our tea? Out of all the tea that's produced in Taiwan, how do we decide on what batch to buy? Find out as we take you along on our latest sourcing trip of spring Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea.

The Farm

Alishan high mountain tea farm

We continue to be delighted with our source of Alishan Tea that we discovered a few years ago. It is a residential farm, run by a husband and wife team, with an onsite factory, and surrounded by pine and bamboo forest in the Alishan High Mountain Tea area of Taiwan. It embodies pretty much everything we aspire to support in the local industry, and represent to tea lovers around the world. This homestead farm is among the highest elevation farms in the valley, with only small neighboring plots of tea, but no residential development above it. It's farms like this we want to support when looking for ethical and sustainably sourced teas. We have a great feeling about the people and the environment that sustainably produce this quality High Mountain Tea from the Alishan region.

Monitor the Harvest

We repeatedly showed up in the factory and on the farm that we source our Alishan High Mountain Oolong from in recent weeks to check out how the spring harvest was progressing. We slept out on site to capture the harvesting, and woke up at dawn to the wonderful scene below.

 

Alishan high mountain tea region at dawn

When farms are run privately, there is more care and responsibility that goes into the management of them. This, combined with smaller factories results in smaller quantities of tea leaves being processed on a daily and seasonal basis. This smaller batch factor allows for more customized processing, and is also typically done by the farmers/owners themselves, who take more pride in their processing methods and quality of their product.

Here's a shot of the new leaf growth on the morning of our batch of tea was being harvested.

Fresh tea leaf growth on day of harvest in the Alishan high mountain tea area of Taiwan

You can see the harvest happening in this timelapse video:

Follow the Flavor

The tea leaves are picked by hand and immediately go through several stages of  processing. After long hours of wilting and oxidation, the leaves are tossed in high-heat tumble dryers to fix them. The tea maker will brew the leaves at this stage to assess the results. Slight adjustments may be made in subsequent processing based on this assessment. This is how the brewed leaves look when they were half-cured, before they are rolled and dried.

Half cured Alishan high mountain tea brewed up in a white tea cup

High Mountain Spring Tea is known for its fresh, floral and mild herbal aromatic qualities. It offers a delicate balance of sweet and astringent qualities that leave an especially clean mouth-feel combined with a lingering, fragrant finish in the nose. Its a refined and complex combination of floral and sweet qualities with the inherent bitter/astringent character of tea leaves that gives Alishan High Mountain Tea its claim to fame.

These are the leaves as they are being rolled and dried the following day after harvest.

Alishan high mountain tea leaves rolled and dried

Final Assessment

After choosing which day of harvest we like most, the final assessment of a batch of tea is when we do a tasting in our own home. Here's a shot of the brewed tea and tea leaves the first time we brewed it ourselves.

Spring Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea brewing and leaves

And you can watch the full tasting video here: 

Take It Home

Whenever possible, we like to ride up to the farms rather than drive, as part of our sustainable practice, and pure enjoyment of high mountain tea country! Here's a roadside snapshot on the way home with our spring batch of Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea!

Try Some Yourself!

If you want to see for yourself what this tea tastes like, you can get some here! Or if you'd like to try a wider sampling of Taiwan teas, try our Taiwanese Tea Sampler.

LET US KNOW!

If you liked this article, please leave a comment in the comments section below or leave any questions you may have as well.

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2 Responses

Eco-Cha Teas
Eco-Cha Teas

April 27, 2020

Sean, though we think it looks yummy too, we wouldn’t recommend eating the tea leaves themselves! :-) The way the brew changes throughout processing really is something to experience!

Sean
Sean

April 27, 2020

That bowl of half-cured leaves looks good enough to eat! I’d really love to experience tea at that stage of processing one day.

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