This is an excerpt from the January/February issue of Tea Magazine
Taiwan is one of the last remaining hidden gems in the tea world, with a unique history, terroir, and style not found anywhere else.
Taiwan’s terroir is uniquely suited to the production of high altitude oolong teas. Situated off the southwestern coast of China and about halfway between Japan and the Philippines, Taiwan is located in a subtropical climate zone. The island sees both tropical weather from Southeast Asia during summer months and winter temperatures cold enough for snow on its highest mountain peaks like Yushan, Lishan, and Alishan. Taiwan’s soil is extremely fertile. Farmers in many of the tea producing micro-regions also grow tropical fruits, aloe vera plants, and traditional vegetables like the delicious bitter melon.
Taiwan is about one-third the size of South Korea, with a surface area of 14,000 square miles. The Ilha Formosa, as the Portuguese named it, is home to more than 26,000 separate tea farms and produces a full spectrum of premium teas including white, green, oolong, and black. According to Jackson Huang, advisor to the Taiwan Tea Manufacturer’s Association, no other location in the world can produce such a full range.
Given that Taiwan’s terroir makes it ideal for growing high quality tea, how is it possible that many western consumers have never even heard of the island, let alone tasted the diversity of teas it produces?
Small land mass and limited production and sophisticated domestic consumers ensure that most of Taiwan’s high quality teas never reach the western hemisphere. Asian importers from Japan, mainland China and Malaysia often snap up the premium tea that leaves the shores of Taiwan before anyone else has a chance to sample it.
I live in Taiwan, founded Tearroir.com, A Wine Lover’s Guide to Tea, and explore the island’s tea culture and many tea farms weekly. There are a number of Taiwan’s tea-producing regions that create teas that delight and surprise equal to Taiwan’s most famous Alishan Oolong. Here are four unique teas often not found in the west, representing Taiwan’s different production regions and styles.