Drink Magazine

Introducing Taiwan High Mountain Tea (台湾高山茶)

By Dchew78 @peonyts

If you or any of your friends have been to Taiwan, odds are among the local souvenirs you have brought back are packets or tins of tea with the words Taiwan High Mountain Tea or 台湾高山茶.

What is Taiwan High Mountain Tea?

Taiwan High Mountain Tea is not a specific variety of tea nor is it a brand itself though. Taiwan High Mountain Tea (I feel there’s a redundancy in that phrase) is defined as tea grow in the central mountainous belts including Yushan, Alishan, Xueshan, Haianshan belts. Only teas grown at elevations above 1000m can be considered high mountain teas and the term has come to denote oolong teas that are rolled in beaded shapes.

Introducing Taiwan High Mountain Tea (台湾高山茶)
The Taiwan High Mountain Teas are high end Taiwanese oolongs and in recent years especially are favored by connoisseurs and tourist alike. The most common cultivar used in making Taiwan High Mountain Tea is the Qing Xin Wu Long (青心乌龙) cultivar which was initially from Fujian but has taken on a character of its own in Taiwan.

The second most common cultivar is the Jin Xuan (金萱), sometimes translated as Golden Lily or also known as the ‘Milk Oolong’. The Jin Xuan cultivar when grown at higher elevations has a distinct natural milky aroma. Many dishonest merchants attempt to fake this by artificially flavoring their tea with milk residues among other substances. This is especially true for Jin Xuans that are grown at Quanzhou, Fujian, Thailand and Vietnam but labeled as Taiwan oolong.

The Taiwan Jade or Cuiyu (翠玉) cultivar is also another cultivar that is used for Taiwan High Mountain Teas although by far the greatest number of crops is grown with the Qing Xin Wu Long cultivar.

What are some of the mountains in question?

Alishan

Whether you chose to start in alphabetical order or in terms of fame, Alishan (阿里山) is the place to start. Located in Jiayi (also spelled Chiayi) province, Alishan is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Tea is planted here at elevations from 1,000-1,800 meters above sea level and is the mountain with the largest production volume among Taiwan High Mountain Teas.

Introducing Taiwan High Mountain Tea (台湾高山茶)
As it attracts tourists for its scenic views, many a foreigner may be introduced to the world of Taiwanese High Mountain Teas on the slopes of Alishan.

Shan Li Xi

Shan Lin Xi (杉林溪) in Zhushan district, Nantou province is another famous Taiwanese tea producing mountain. Teas are planted from elevations of 1,200-1,600 meters above sea level and its misty mountain coupled with its cool mountains makes it a fertile ground for growing tea.

Lishan

Lishan (梨山), sometimes translated as ‘Pear Mountain’ is one of the highest mountains in Taiwan. Teas are typically grown from 2,000 meters to 2,600 meters.

Other mountains include Yushan (玉山) and Da Yu Ling (大禹岭) which represent some of the highest quality Taiwanese Oolongs.

What’s with Higher Elevation?

The saying goes “高山出好茶” or high mountains produce good tea. This is attributable to a number of factors that are best discussed in a separate post.

To put it simply, higher mountain teas tend to be higher in amino acid, sweeter and lesser in bitterness and astringency due to lower caffeine. As a result, the Taiwanese High Mountain Oolongs are very popular for their soothing aftertaste and lingering ‘huigan’.

No wonder few tourists leave Taiwan without it.


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