FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $75

Taiwanese Black Tea Treasure Hunt

Eco-Cha Tea Guy, Andy, has been all over Taiwan recently searching for special, hard-to-find, and delicious black teas. By fully oxidizing fresh tea leaves you end up with black tea, and any cultivar of tea leaf can be used. Different cultivars, different regions, and elevations all produce different teas. We're still tasting to decide which of these black teas will end up on the Eco-Cha menu, in the meantime take a look at the list below and let us know which you'd most like to try.  

Lishan Black Tea

Tea Type: Qing Xin Oolong
Location: Fushoushan, Taichung 
Elevation: 2000m
Harvest: Late Spring 2015

There was a very unusual frost at higher elevations later in the spring growing season. This farm was affected, and a significant amount of the crop was too damaged to harvest. However, the frost-bitten plants that were not harvested at spring had secondary growth after the frost. Even though it was a very minimal amount of new leaf growth that was scattered on certain plants all throughout the farm, the owners decided to harvest it. The two brothers who manage the farm worked on their own with no hired help. They roamed the entire farm plucking the new growth from plants that were passed by at spring harvest. They then spent days processing this small batch by hand to make black tea. This entire batch amounted to 7.5 kg of tea leaves! They are intending to offer it in 75g packs as a unique batch to a select customer base. When we expressed our interest in special, rare batches of black tea, they said they would share 2-3 kg with us. It’s prime example of high elevation black tea.

Shan Lin Xi Black Tea

Tea Type:  Qing Xin Oolong
Location: Shanlinxi, Nantou
Elevation: 1700m
Harvest: Late Spring/Summer 2015

This batch of tea was sourced by our supplier of lower elevation teas, who also procures high elevation teas from all over Taiwan. He participates in virtually every tea competition in Taiwan, and now also some in China. He consistently receives high-ranking awards for his competition teas. He requested that the farmer of this high elevation farm not administer any pesticides during the growing season following the spring harvest. He also committed to procuring this harvest if the farmer processed the leaves as he wished. He asked for the leaves to be picked while still young, perhaps 50% mature, and processed as a black tea. He explained that in making black tea, young leaves are optimal because the flavonoids that are responsible for the astringency in tea are less concentrated. So black tea that is made with young leaves is typically smoother and sweeter, with subtle characteristics that are hard to produce with mature leaves. We rarely come across a batch of tea like this in Taiwan. It’s really a special find, and we are excited to share it!

Alishan Honey Black Tea

Tea Type: Jin Xuan #12
Location: Ruifeng, Chiayi
Elevation:1200m
Harvest: Late Spring/Summer 2015

This batch of tea was sourced from a friend of ours who is a high elevation tea farmer, Dong Ding Oolong artisan, and professional tea judge who in recent years has specialized in sourcing batches of “bug bitten tea”. Tea farmers all over central Taiwan know that he is always looking for unique batches of tea that have been affected by the Green Leaf Hopper. This year, he even committed to buying entire harvests of spring tea from farmers who promised not to administer any pesticides during the growing season, so as to “invite” this little insect to come work its magic. He then cooperates with the farmers in deciding on the optimal processing methods of a given batch. After this, he takes the tea home and determines the optimal degree of roasting that will be done to bring the leaves to their fullest potential of quality and character.

This batch of tea was allowed to oxidize to the point of almost being a black tea. It was then rolled and dried, similar to a standard Taiwan Oolong, a semi-spherical shape, but not as tightly. In this sense, it resembles a semi-modern Taiwan Oolong, like tea that was made here 30 years ago or so. Being a Jin Xuan, it is milder and smoother by nature. Adding to this that the leaves were affected by the Leaf Hopper to a mild extent, there is a subtle honey, and maybe a touch of rose character that comes out in the flavor. The leaves were only roasted at low temperature once to deplete them of any moisture content and stabilize their shelf life. While he has decided to call it a Concubine Oolong (a wide spectrum of character), we think “Honey Essence Black Tea” is closer to the mark as a descriptive name. Whatever name it is given, it’s an interesting, robust flavored tea!

Dong Ding Black Tea

Tea Type:  Qing Xin Oolong
Location: Yonglong, Nantou
Elevation: 750m
Harvest: Late Spring/Summer 2015

This batch of tea was sourced from our regular source of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. Due to the requests of some local, long-term clients, he processed the harvest from the smaller of his two plots of late spring tea as black tea. This is the same plot of tea that produced last fall’s particularly nice batch of Dong Ding Oolong which we were able to share with you. The qualities of the Qing Xin Oolong tea plant grown on this famous ridge offer something that is unique in comparison to other growing regions as well as other cultivars and hybrid strains. There is an underlying “base character” that still comes through, even when these leaves are processed as black tea. This batch is a mellow, rich, yet colorful bouquet of flavor and aroma that is bound to leave any black tea lover surprisingly satisfied. It’s a very small batch of tea that amounted to less than 50kg total. We continue to feel blessed in our connection to the Dong Ding artisan who is committed to his trade.

Assam Black Tea

Tea Type: Assam #8
Location: Sun Moon Lake, Nantou
Elevation: 450m
Harvest: Late Spring/Summer 2015

This individual is one of the leading representatives and proponents of high grade black tea in Taiwan. He is employed by the Tea Research and Extension Station and is a third generation tea farmer in the Sun Moon Lake region. His family cultivates their tea naturally, with no use of chemical products whatsoever. In recent years, he has formed a cooperative of 5 fellow tea producers that all follow the same standards of production. This allows these farmers to maintain their small, family-run farms at high quality, artisan standards while meeting demand for larger quantities of tea.

Assam #8 was selected from the plants the were cultivated in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945). The Tea Research and Extension Station chose the ideal specimen and registered it for standardized reproduction and cultivation by using clones. (If tea is grown from the seed, it will vary from plant to plant, and lose the standard of quality.) Assam tea produced in the sub-tropical climate of Taiwan's central mountain range produces a substantial, balanced quality that makes it a premium example of this tea type. The local climate, combined with Taiwan's leading research and knowledge of tea cultivation put this black tea in a world class category.

Red Jade Black Tea

Tea Type: Tai Cha #18
Location: Sun Moon Lake, Nantou
Elevation: 450m
Harvest: Late Spring/Summer 2015

This individual is one of the leading representatives and proponents of high grade black tea in Taiwan. He is employed by the Tea Research and Extension Station and is a third generation tea farmer in the Sun Moon Lake region. His family cultivates their tea naturally, with no use of chemical products whatsoever. In recent years, he has formed a cooperative of 5 fellow tea producers that all follow the same standards of production. This allows these farmers to maintain their small, family-run farms at high quality, artisan standards while meeting demand for larger quantities of tea.

Red Jade Tea—also known as Taiwan Tea No. 18, brews a rich, full-bodied tea with subtle hints of clove, cinnamon and mint in its complex composition.

The character of Red Jade is unique among black teas, while still possessing a classic black tea quality. It is another exemplary selection on the Eco-Cha menu in that it is sustainably produced with low-impact farming methods and minimal processing. If you are a black tea lover, you deserve a sampling of this unique strain of tea.

Red Jade is a hybrid of the Assam tea plant and the wild tea tree that grows naturally in the mountain forests of Taiwan. This strain of tea was created by the government subsidized Tea Research Extension Station in the Sun Moon Lake tea growing region of Nantou County. Since it possesses the DNA of a wild plant in the local eco-system, it has natural immunity to some of the “pests” that tend to compromise the health of the more conventionally cultivated tea plants. Consequently, this tea garden - now in its seventh year of growth, has been cultivated without the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Although this farmer has not pursued official certification, this is organically produced tea.

These wild tea qualities, in combination with the Assam tea plant that was originally a native plant to South and Southeast Asia produces an extraordinary type of black tea. The processing of black tea involves full oxidation of the leaves after being harvested, followed by low-temperature drying without any roasting. Due to the fact that black tea is processed without being exposed to high temperatures to cease oxidation or subsequent roasting, it maintains more of its natural character – similar to that of dried fruit or nuts. Summer is considered to be the prime harvest time for black tea, when the leaves contain the most catechins, providing more flavor and astringency. 

Zhushan Black Tea

Tea Type: Jin Xuan #12
Location: Fanzaitian, Nantou
Elevation: 1600m
Harvest: Summer 2014

This batch of tea was procured by our source of Red Jade #18 and Assam #8. This individual is one of the leading representatives and proponents of high grade black tea in Taiwan. He is employed by the Tea Research and Extension Station and is a third generation tea farmer in the Sun Moon Lake region. In recent years he has cooperated with farmers in other regions in the production of black tea. His knowledge and skill in processing, combined with other artisans resources is producing some of the nicest black tea available on the market. 

When he is able to obtain a big enough stock, he prefers to age his tea for one year before offering it for sale. He asserts that by letting the leaves sit for a year, they produce a mellower, smoother, balanced brew. In addition to the two types from his own farm, he chose this batch to offer as a representative of fine black tea from Taiwan. He cooperates with a high elevation tea farmer in southern Nantou County to produce an annual harvest of summer tea to process as black tea. 

After spring harvest, the plants are allowed to grow naturally for at least three months. In this time, zero pesticides are administered. The new growth is allowed to develop naturally and grow at least six inches with many new leaves. This is both rejuvenating for the plants, and also provides a strong new growth "base". Before the plants are pruned back to prepare for a fall crop, the newest leaf buds are picked from the tops of the new growth branches. These are young leaves, only about half matured. This sustainable farming method results in the leaves of this harvest having a higher concentration of constituents that produce a more substantial flavor and character. They are also grown with no chemical products at all, so they are both completely safe and of the highest quality. 

Coming Soon... 

We will let you know soon which of these teas will be available at on the Eco-Cha Store. Which one would you most like to try? 

Have you heard of the
Eco-Cha Tea Club?

We've been sourcing tea for 25 years and we often come across small, special batches that are not available in our shop. Join the Eco-Cha Tea Club to experience these teas each month.

JOIN NOW

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.