What Is Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Tea?

High Mountain Tea, also referred to as “high mountain oolong tea,” is a unique tea variety grown at high altitudes, typically around 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. The exceptional quality of this tea is attributed to the specific environmental conditions in which it thrives. High mountain oolong teas undergo semi-oxidization, with an oxidation level ranging from 20% to 40%. This meticulous processing method is instrumental in bringing out the tea’s exquisite flavors and aromas.

The appeal of high mountain tea lies in its sophistication, characterized by a light golden color and floral, creamy notes that mesmerize tea connoisseurs. Cultivated in the central Taiwanese mountain ranges, these teas flourish in challenging terrains, often growing at heights of up to 2000 meters, in renowned regions like Alishan, Lishan, Yushan Shan Lin Xi, Qilai Shan, and Da Yu Ling. Among these, Da Yu Ling stands out as a highly sought-after high mountain tea, cultivated in select locations. These teas distinguish themselves not only through their elevated growth conditions but also by the exclusive Taiwanese tea cultivars utilized. Well-known cultivars like qing xin, Jin Xuan, cui yu, and Si-ji impart distinct characteristics to the teas.

For individuals venturing into the tea world, exploring different cultivars is pivotal for developing a refined palate. Taiwanese gao shan teas serve as an exceptional entry point, as each variant embodies unique expressions, offering valuable insights into tea cultivation practices.

High Mountain Tea Terroir

The terroir of high mountain tea encompasses a range of external factors that influence tea plants, such as weather, soil, altitude, climate, and the expertise of tea producers. Taiwan’s misty mountains create a unique environment that enhances the flavors of high mountain tea.

The distinct aromas of high mountain tea are a result of the slow growth of the tea plants. The lower temperatures at higher altitudes cause the plants to grow more slowly compared to those at lower elevations. Additionally, the mountain mist provides adequate humidity and shields the plants from excessive sunlight, reducing astringency and intensifying the vibrancy of the tea.

Due to significant temperature variations between day and night and intense sunlight exposure, high mountain tea faces challenging growing conditions that naturally select for robust tea plants. The tea leaves grown at high elevations are typically thicker and more resilient compared to those grown at sea level, resulting in a more potent aroma and fragrance. High mountain teas are known for their elegant florals, vegetal sweetness, and creamy flavors.

The higher price of high mountain teas compared to other oolongs can be attributed to the unique terroir they are grown in. While the benefits of high elevation growth are evident, tea farmers encounter various challenges. Hand-plucking the tea leaves is labor-intensive and time-consuming. The slower growth rate leads to less frequent harvests and lower yields per harvest. Furthermore, the high domestic demand for this tea in Taiwan restricts its exportation.

The combination of these factors in a specific region creates a distinct terroir that influences the brewing and tasting experience of the teas grown there. Notable examples beyond Taiwan oolong tea include the renowned “Yancha” or Rock Tea, a High Mountain oolong tea from Wuyishan, and “Fenghuang Dancong” from Chaozhou in Guangdong. The unique environment of WuYi Mountain’s high-altitude slopes imparts a distinctive “Rock Flavor” to the tea grown there. In Dancong Oolong, intense mineral notes complement a distinct floral essence, creating a unique “Shan Yun” or “Mountain Flavor” exclusive to elevations above a certain threshold. Both teas possess unique terroirs, making them highly sought after by tea enthusiasts.

High Mountain Tea Regions

Taiwan is home to several high mountains known for producing distinctive tea varieties shaped by unique climates and elevations. Notable mountains include:

  • Ali Shan – Spans six central Taiwan counties, renowned for high-altitude Taiwanese tea grown between 1,000 and 2,300 meters. Teas from Mount Ali feature a buttery texture, sweetness, and Osmanthus floral notes.
  • Shan Lin Xi – Situated at 1,600 to 1,800 meters in Nantou, known for a pleasant climate. Teas offer a smooth texture, vibrant florals, and hints of cedar, including the Valley of Dragon and Phoenix.
  • Li Shan – Crosses three central Taiwan counties, host to tea plantations from 1,800 to 2,600 meters, with Da Yu Ling being the highest tea-producing peak. Teas are prized for pear blossom and apple notes, with a frost-kissed ancient forest aroma.
  • Yu Shan – Known as Jade Mountain, Taiwan’s highest peak at 3,952 meters. Tea cultivation occurs between 1,200 and 1,600 meters, featuring the Qingxin cultivar. Tea scents include white flowers, pom fruits, and ancient forest aromas.
  • Lala Shan – Emerging as a tea-growing region in Taoyuan, situated between 1,000 and 1,500 meters. Teas offer delicate, silky textures with peach and evergreen fragrances.
  • Qilai Shan – Located between Hualien and Nantou, renowned for its challenging terrain. Tea cultivation at 1,800 to 2,100 meters produces vibrant, floral teas with a buttery quality.

Taiwan boasts numerous regions beyond these mountains, each offering exceptional high mountain teas for a flavorful and aromatic exploration.

Concluding Thoughts

High Mountain Tea is distinguished by its exceptional qualities. With distinctive flavors and a fragrant essence, it engages your senses, fostering mindfulness and establishing a tea-induced mind-body connection. An ideal companion for those seeking mental tranquility and spiritual clarity, its scientifically validated health advantages are well-documented.

My aspiration is for more individuals to embrace the knowledge acquired through my dedicated journey, savoring the luxury and virtue embodied by this outstanding tea. Introducing the exact tea that enriches my daily routine, the premium yet accessible High Mountain Tea from Alishan, Taiwan.

Appreciate the time you’ve dedicated to reading, and may your tea-drinking experience be truly delightful!

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