Compared to countries such as China or India, Taiwan is truly a tiny tea-growing area, which generates even more attention in the tea world. We at friends of tea love tea from Taiwan, so today we want to tell you a little more about growing and refining Taiwanese oolong!

The cultivation

Tea production in Taiwan is strongly influenced by small family farms. If you expect huge industrial tea fields here, look here in vain. Taiwan is particularly famous for its high mountain teas, all teas that grow in the high mountains at up to 2800 meters above sea level! At these heights, there is less oxygen in the air, which in turn leads to slower plant growth and thus to a softer, more pleasant tea. If you want to know in detail what High Mountain Oolong is, we’ve already written a detailed article for you here!

At Taiwanese Oolong is not only special where it grows, but also from what it is ultimately made of. For the vast majority of teas, two leaves and a bud are picked, i.e. the two youngest shoots of the tea plant and a delicate bud. But the Taiwanese thought “that’s not enough for us!” and pick the oolong pick, which consists of the top 4 to 5 leaves of the tea shrub. These larger leaves have a much more rounded taste for the finished oolong and are less bitter.

Handmade for the perfect tea

For an excellent Taiwanese oolong it is also important how it was picked, because unlike the Japanese, the Taiwanese have not yet perfected this with machines. Only simple qualities from the lowlands of Taiwan are picked with machines, but really good tea is and remains here finest handicraft. Whether a Taiwan Oolong has been picked by hand can even be easily checked for yourself! Since more leaves are usually harvested for oolong, the branches of the tea bushes are a little thicker at the desired place and cannot be easily loosened by hand. Therefore, the pickers and Taiwanese have small razors on their thumb. The sheet material is then separated with a thumb and index finger with a vertical cut. Tea picked by machines, on the other hand, always has a clean, horizontal cut!

Production

The tea farms in Taiwan are often rather small, and family-run farms can often afford the large and modern machines for further processing, but simply have no place for them. Therefore, the picked sheet material is passed on to local specialists, who produce the tea ready for the growers in the area. The relationship between all the producers is often quite personal and they all work closely together, giving each tea its own character.

The freshly harvested leaf material is spread out in a large hall after harvesting to wither. From below, the leaves are constantly supplied with fresh air, which keeps the withwed process constant and keeps the leaf material fresh. By wilting, the leaves lose part of their water content and become more elastic, which facilitates further processing.

Afterwards, the leaves are laid out on round bamboo mats for oxidation. Here, too, it is important for a uniform quality that the leaves are regularly turned and shaken. Once the perfect oxidation punk is achieved, the work step follows, which makes a classic Taiwan Oolong what it is: rolling.

Preparation of Oolong Tea
Fresh leaves are laid out for wilting

For the rolling process, many sheets are put together in a cloth bag, which is then pressed extremely firmly together to form a round ball and then rolled. If you repeat this process a few times, small round balls come out at the end. The High Mountain Oolong is born! Finally, the tea is dried to prevent further oxidation.

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