What makes Taiwanese Oolong (wulong) Tea Unique?
Due to the unique infusion of Chinese, Japanese, Indian and native tribespeople, the Taiwanese have develeoped a unique expertise in the growth and the production of fine tea.
The island is famous for its high-mountain teas of (1,800 m), mid-mountain tea ( 800–1,800 m) and low-grown tea (less than 800 m). Three of the islands mountains are Ali Shan, Shan Lin Xi and Li Shan. These are known for the production of some of the most famous high mountain teas in the world, and their name is synonymous with optimum expertise and natural organic production techniques.
The reason for their outstanding reputation is that unlike the large tea planatitions found throughout most of the rest of the world, where high rainfall and hot sunny days mean an almost perpetual harvest, the mountains of Taiwan are cool and humid.This slows the growth of the plants and changes the properties of polyphenols, which give most teas a bitterness and astringency that forces the client to disguise the taste with milk, sugar or lemon.
(Authentic) High Mountain Oolong Tea
Tea bushes grow very soft fleshy leaves with extremely high content of pectins, nitrogenous bases, water soluble amino acids and proteins that are very beneficial to the human body Especially there is a lot of asparagine amino acid, which gives a sweet and sour shade of taste, highly esteemed by experts and tea lovers. High-mountain tea has a bright light yellow colour of infusion, a refreshing flavour and a sweet oily taste. Producing tea in the high mountains has its own difficulties. Primarily it is related to considerable human efforts during tea harvesting, and moreover, due to frequent mist, there are problems with further processing of collected raw tea.
Harvesting High Mountain Oolong Tea
There are four harvests per year. The spring crop; late March to early May, the summer crop – from late June to early August, the autumn crop – from late September to early November, the winter crop – from late December to early February. High mountain tea, such as that found on ali shan and li shan is often grown in inaccessible areas often miles from the roadside.Tea is, therefore, hand picked. Winter and spring harvests usually produce the tea.
Some varieties of Oolong have their second and third leaves picked. Buds are either cut off or left to grow. The entire plucking takes 10-15 days. The harvest usually starts at 5:30 in the morning. The best age of tea plant is 4-10 (sometimes up to 15) years. Plants under 4 years are not used.
The harvested tea leaves are spread out under the morning Sun, this allows moisture to be reduced, active chlorophyll to degrade. This removes the grassyness and allows the process of oxidation to begin. The drying area is occasionally covered which protects the leaves from direct sunlight. A tea master monitors the moisture and temperature.
During indoor withering excess moisture is removed from tea leaves and internally the oxidation process will increase. The leaves also become soft and malleable for further processing.
At this stage small stalks are removed.
Oxidation (fermentation) occurs in special trays, traditionally bamboo and lasts approximately 2-4 hours. The Tea Master will constantly check the process which is akin to "making the tea" The tea master will fall back on thousands of years of wisdom and training to estimate the appearance and hence the flavour of the tea leaves. The tea master will command when to turn a tray, so that tea leaves may breathe and cool down a little and decides when to finish the process.
The leaves are then placed into a rolling drum, which is heated to 300-400°C. This stops the oxidation (internally chemical reactions) . As the drum rolls, the leaves are bruised. This damages the membranes inside the leaves and allows the release of fluids.
The rolling stage involves placing the tea in large cloth bags, these are then rolled which helps create the round pellet shapes of Oolong tea. These are periodically unpacked to allow the decompression thetea , this is then placed in a drum for a few seconds for kneading, Thhis allows the leaf to open partictally. The whole cycle is repeated 40-60 times.
In total, the manufacturing of one tea batch takes about 36 hours
The tea is then placed in foil bags which are vacuum sealed to prevent further oxidative changes. These packs are then supplied with optional tins and special nylon sealing clips.
It is estimated that 95% of the teas sold as authentic Taiwanese teas are fraudulent in that they are grown elsewhere and often produced elsewhere. This can have health consequences due to lack of control over pollutants and pesticides.
All Oolong Tea Club tea is authentic Taiwanese tea and can be traced to source plantation.