In this September, we’re taking you on a taste tour of Taiwan. While many of us haven’t been able to travel this year, let’s take comfort in the fact that every day, we can go on mini adventures around the world through tea.
Taiwanese oolongs are beloved for their fragrant aromas. The tea aroma is valued so highly, in fact, that the Taiwanese designed a special aroma cup in the 1970s to use for appreciating tea. When you sit down for a tea tasting in Taiwan, the tea is poured first into the tall, narrow aroma cup, which you then tip upside down into your drinking cup, bringing the aroma cup up to your nose to inhale the flavour before drinking the tea.
Oolong tea is the most complicated of all teas to produce, and requires a lot of muscle. You’ll be surprised at how many big, muscular, tattooed men work at tea factories!
The tea leaves are first withered in large bamboo trays (the smell is simply heavenly here), then rolled or shaken for gentle bruising until the edges turn a red-brown colour. After being left to oxidise in a warm environment, they are then kill-greened under a high heat. Next, they are wrapped in a big cloth and placed in a rolling machine (“lotus machine”). This is where the muscle comes in - each bag weighs around 18kg! The leaves alternate between the rolling machines and the big heating drums up to 40 times before being roast-dried. It’s two days of almost non-stop work.
I sourced all these teas on my trips to Taiwan over the years. Shanlinxi Milky Oolong is a Taiwanese classic, beloved for its thick creamy texture. Our Alishan High Mountain Oolong comes from a family farm in Shizhuo I first visited seven years ago. I was treated with the signature warmth of Taiwanese hospitality the entire time. One thing I’ll never forget is the tea tempura they served at dinner—that’s right, tempura made with freshly picked tea leaves, and dipped in home grown wasabi salt! It was incredible.
Old Grove Tieguanyin comes from Muzha, a gorgeous little place with lots of tea shops not far from Taipei city. Many people come up on the cable car here for romantic strolls in the hills, and of course, the famous teas. May every sip of each tea fill you with the warmth and inspiration that characterises the very essence of Taiwan.
Until next time,
Founder of teakha and PLANTATION