Which are the different types of Taiwan tea?

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Taiwan tea grows on mountains and hills that are often cloaked in mist. The humid and cool climate is ideal for tea gardens. Gifted Taiwan farmers do the rest.

Nowadays the little island of Taiwan enjoys the same status, in the world of tea, that Burgundy or Tuscany have among the best wine areas.

Some of the best types of Chinese tea are produced in Taiwan. They are tilled and prepared with art, science and love by Taiwanese tea farmers.

Taiwanese drink most of the tea they produce, about 80% of it. Tea is not a tourist thing in Taiwan. Instead tea appreciation is deeply rooted in the local culture.

A bit like wine in Southern Europe …

Taiwan Tea Garden in  Nantou County

Taiwan Tea Garden in Nantou County

Types of Taiwan Tea

Which are the different types of Taiwanese tea? Let’s see them.

All varieties of tea come from the buds and leaves of a single species of bush, named Camelia Sinensis.

The differences between teas just in small part depend on the different varieties of the tea plant. Above all they rest on the different processing methods of the leaves.

Once harvested the “oxidation” process of the leaves starts. Put it simple, leaves become yellow and wither. This oxidation can be controlled and interrupted at different stages by the tea masters, using centuries old techniques.

So the different types of Taiwan tea depend mostly at which stage the oxidation process has been stopped.

Taiwan’s main types of tea are the following:

  • Green Tea
  • Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea

There are other types of tea that are not produced in Taiwan but only in China. They are anyway well known and popular among Taiwanese connoisseurs. So you will probably have a chance to drink them in the tea houses and restaurants in Taichung. Here they are:

  • White Tea
  • Yellow Tea
  • Pu’erh Tea

Let’s see them more in details …

Green Tea

Green tea is “not oxidized”.

Buds or leaves are harvested and left 1-2 hours under the sun to dry. After that the leaves are pan roasted to stop the oxidation process.

Green tea keeps more of the original characteristics of the leaves, such as the green color and the fresh grassy fragrance. The drink has a pale yellow-green color.

Taiwan green tea is mainly produced in the northern counties of Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli. You can find good green tea producers also on Baguashan hill, between Changhua and Nantou.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is semi-oxidized.

Oolong is the flagship of Taiwan tea. The finest oolong teas are produced in the island and in the chinese province of Fujian.

Oxidation of different oolong teas ranges widely between 10 to 80%. So there is a variety of oolong teas.

The most distinguished Taiwan oolong are:

  • Baozhong: also called Pouchong, is lightly oxidized (10-20%), a floral tea, smooth and sweet.
  • Dong Ding: a classic high mountain oolong with a rich bright yellow color.
  • Alishan: another high mountain oolong grown at more than 1000 meters altitude.
  • Oriental Beauty: it is a unique oolong, with an almost intoxicating fragrance of orange flowers and honey, and a fascinating story
  • Tie Kuanyin: the “Iron Buddha” is highly oxidized (50-60%), normally roasted, giving it an outstanding and natural scent of wood and smoke.
Oolong tea from Alishan

Oolong tea from Alishan

Black Tea

Black tea is fully oxidized.

Black tea is the strong tea that is usually drunk in the west. It is produced in China but mainly in India, Sri Lanka and Africa.

Taiwan produces some good quality black tea. You can find it around Sun Moon Lake and Puli, in Nantou County.

White Tea

White Tea is slightly oxidized. It is left to wilt in the air.

White tea is even less processed than green tea. It is a rare tea. The most famed white tea is Silver Needle. Only the finest buds are harvested for this expensive Fujian tea.

Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is rare and less known too.

It is quite similar to the green tea.

The leaf is slightly steamed and then left to wither in the air for some time. Yellow tea keeps the health benefits of the green tea without the grassy taste of the latter.

Pu’erh Tea

Pu’erh tea is much more known than white and yellow teas. It is a compressed and fermented chinese tea, often sold in “tea cakes” shaped as bricks or disks.

Pu’erh can be aged for a very long time, even one century! Connoisseurs collect – at very high prices – and drink pu’erh cakes prepared decades ago …

Pu’erh tea scent and taste are quite strong, as earth and hay.

It is produced in Yunnan province of Southern China.

Pu’erh Disk – Photo by Tamorlan on Wikipedia

Pu’erh Disk – Photo by Tamorlan on Wikipedia

Useful Words in Mandarin

English Traditional Chinese Pronunciation (Hanyu Pinyin)
Green Tea 綠茶 lǜchá
Oolong Tea 烏龍茶 wūlóng chá
Black Tea 紅茶 hóngchá
White Tea 白茶 báichá
Yellow Tea 黃茶 huángchá
Pu’erh Tea 普洱茶 pǔ’ěr chá
Alishan 阿里山 Ālǐshān
Baozhong 包種 bāozhòng
Dong Ding 凍頂 dòngdǐng
Oriental Beauty 東方美人 dōngfāng meǐrén
Tie Kuanyin 鐵觀音 tiěguānyīn
Silver Needle 白毫銀針 bái háo yín zhēn

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