Taiwan is famous for High Mountain Oolong Teas, teas grown above 1000m elevation. The island actually has a number of High Mountain Tea regions, but only a few stand out as being world-renowned. Here we provide a brief overview of Taiwan's top-four.
Top-4 Taiwan High Mountain Tea Regions
Alishan High Mountain Tea Region
Alishan is the southernmost High Mountain Tea growing region on Taiwan. Geographically located right on the Tropic Of Cancer, it has a significantly warmer and sunnier climate, yet still has daily intermittent sun and fog at higher elevations.
Alishan High Mountain Tea Growing Region
The elevations of tea gardens in this region range from 1000 to 1800m, with the majority of farms between 1200m and 1600m elevation. This milder climate produces a character of High Mountain Tea that sets it apart from its northern cousins. This area also enjoys significant diurnal temperature variations, complimented by almost daily afternoon fog following morning sun. It's just got a friendlier, mellower feeling to the environment in comparison with the other High Mountain Tea areas.
Alishan High Mountain Mist
This milder climate and more comfortable environment is reflected in the character of High Mountain Tea produced in this region. It's got a vibrant, complex character that is somehow more palatable or "accessible" in its flavor profile, especially to folks first trying out High Mountain Teas.
Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea Region
Close to Alishan is the Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea region. Both Shan Lin Xi and Alishan are considered the birthplace of Taiwan High Mountain Tea.
Shan Lin Xi is the mountainous region above Lugu — historically the most famous place name representing Taiwan Oolong Tea. In 1974, Lugu was chosen by the central government as the primary region to be subsidized for the development of specialty tea production. This quickly progressed to developing tea farms at higher elevations. Consequently, the innovation of a fresh new type of tea was created with the cultivation of tea at higher elevations.
Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea Growing Region
The newly developed "High Mountain Tea" was a lightly oxidized, unroasted tea, with amazingly complex aromatic and flavor profiles! The character of High Mountain Tea varies distinctly from the earlier traditionally made tea types.
Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea Farm
The original local culture of tea making combined with government subsidization and education on modern tea production gave Shan Lin Xi a head start to pioneering a new type of specialty tea. This rapidly spread to nearby regions, as the demand for this new specialty product spiked along with the economic growth in Taiwan during the 1980's and 90's. The eponymous Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong comes from this region.
Li Shan High Mountain Tea Region
Li Shan (梨山/Pear Mountain) is the most prestigious name for Taiwan High Mountain Tea, along with Da Yu Ling — which is just a short distance up the road from Li Shan.
This area is the highest elevation tea growing region on the subtropical island of Taiwan — ranging from 1800m to 3000m — and offers spectacular natural scenery.
Li Shan High Mountain Tea Growing Region
These elevations, combined with the geographic positioning of the main valley that is exposed to prevailing north-easterly wind patterns, offer ideal growing conditions for premium High Mountain Oolong Tea.
Li Shan High Mountain Tea Farm
The name that has commercially been designated Li Shan High Mountain Tea now encompasses an expansive area that extends far beyond the actual place name. It includes a massive central valley heading south from Li Shan, as far as He Huan Shan. The geographic details are significant, down to the direction that any given mountain slope is facing, combined with the surrounding landscape. Climate change has also become an influential factor that has slightly compromised the distinguishing quality of Li Shan High Mountain Tea, but it continues to maintain its rightfully earned claim to fame.
Yushan High Mountain Tea Region
The Yushan High Mountain Tea growing region lies deeper in Taiwan's central mountain range, just southeast of Lugu and Shan Lin Xi. Yushan (玉山/Jade Mountain) is the highest peak in all of east Asia!
The remote farming community on the edge of the Yushan national park land quickly followed suit of their neighbors in the development of High Mountain Tea farming.
Yushan Organic High Mountain Tea Farm
This area had its heyday and claim to fame, but it proved to be comparatively short-lived, with the onset of farms being developed in the Li Shan areas to the north. Evidently, the soil composition is less ideal in this region than in others, and produce from here eventually could not compete with other commercial tea farming regions.
Yushan Organic High Mountain Tea Farm
The remaining farms in the Yushan region that have survived and continue to prosper are those that have transitioned to organic farming. Organic produce is a different category of quality standards, and has its own special characteristics that are favored by a separate market sector than the conventional standards of Taiwan High Mountain Tea. We have learned from direct experience that this remote high mountain produce is well worth representing as a specialty tea, and is a rare and precious find! Our Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong Tea comes from this area.
So, there we have it — a brief overview of the more well known names among Taiwan's High Mountain Tea producing regions, with some of the geographic idiosyncrasies that set them apart from one another. Watch the video below for a highly enjoyable visual display of these regions, with a more detailed description of each one!
Watch the Video!
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