Taiwan

Beautiful harmony

18 March 2022
Beautiful harmony

Here in Taiwan, the ground outside the oldest black tea factory – now a museum – reminds me of my work. If left unpicked, the tender camellia shoots will gradually turn into stems, into wood. Thus the tea plant is made up of greens and darks, of soft and hard materials, of leaves and branches. This contrast of colours also reminds me of tea’s aromas, which are so often vegetal with green teas and woody with black teas. Everything here speaks of tea, right down to the beautiful harmony of the old boards between which a joyful shoot emerges.

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Beneficial pain

15 January 2021
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With so much focus on the benefits of the vaccination needle, despite its brief sting, I wanted to look at a comparable phenomenon that affects the tea plant, in which momentary “pain” is beneficial. In some parts of the world, such as Taiwan and Darjeeling, a particular insect – a type of leafhopper called Jacobiasca formosana – likes to munch on the leaves of Camellia sinensis. The plant’s chemical response to this attack results in a rare, highly sought-after aroma in the cup. You will find this bouquet in an Oriental Beauty, for example, or a Darjeeling Muscatel. In these regions, farmers actively protect the insect to make sure they visit the plants and eat their leaves.

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Beware the heat!

26 June 2020
Beware the heat!

Tea plants don’t like extreme heat. In the hottest regions they are grown under cover, like here, in Taiwan. This is not quite the same as shade-grown tea. It means that from time to time the delicate little shoots get a bit of respite, and the leaves are not subjected to direct sunlight throughout the day.

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A black tea factory that is now a museum, in Taiwan

11 August 2017
A black tea factory that is now a museum, in Taiwan

The island of Taiwan is famous for its Oolong teas. They are oxidised to varying degrees and so develop notes that are more vegetal, or on the contrary, more woody. But these teas, which are also known as blue-green teas, do not represent all of the island’s production. There are also green teas and black teas in Taiwan. Regarding the black teas, here is the building where they were processed, at the time of the occupation and when the Japanese were toying with the idea of making Taiwan one of the world’s biggest producers of black teas. The Japanese wanted to compete with British teas made in India.

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A vertical garden

30 September 2016
A vertical garden

Tea has a very good character. It gets on well with many plants. Here, high up in Taichung (Taiwan), it has a close relationship with Areca catechu. This palm provides the farmer with a supplementary income and our bushes with a little shade. It also lends an impressive verticality to these tea gardens, which are usually very horizontal.

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High teas of high quality

23 September 2016
High teas of high quality

In the centre of the island of Taiwan they produce Gao Shan Chas, high-altitude teas that are rolled into pearls. They are semi-oxidised teas that are withered, then lightly oxidised, roasted, rolled, dried and packaged. In the cup, the best of them develop fresh vegetal notes and a lovely opulent flowery bouquet (rose, hyacinth, jasmine), sustained by buttery, milky notes with an occasional hint of vanilla. These high-quality teas are produced in limited quantities.

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Superb 2015 new-season teas

26 June 2015
Superb 2015 new-season teas

Calling all fans of “grand cru” teas! You now have access to the best selection of teas in the world. This is the optimum time of year to try the finest teas in existence. All are extremely fresh, newly delivered by air. There are first-flush and second-flush Darjeelings, new-season Chinese teas, and Japanese Ichibanchas harvested in May, alongside teas from Nepal, Taiwan and South Korea.

For tea-lovers, the start of the summer is a pure pleasure!

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In Taiwan, people take great care of semi-fermented teas

10 September 2010
In Taiwan, people take great care of semi-fermented teas

In Taiwan, people take great care of semi-fermented teas (wu longs) left to wither outside. The grower first buy an electrical system of open-weave canvases that are moved across to shade the leaves when the sunlight gets too intense. Tea is then aired: it is raked very carefully, for hours, to prevent the leaves from starting to ferment.

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Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

20 July 2010
Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

In Taiwan, in the Nantou region for example, well-known for its Wu Long teas (Dong Ding, etc.), the tall and spindly trunks of the palm trees contrast with the rows of tea plants and give the landscape a very graphic appearance.

I have to admit that this impression is emphasized by the fact that I have been a little disrespectful to the posers in the foreground by chopping their head off…

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Wu Long teas from Taiwan, jewels of teas

15 June 2010
Wu Long teas from Taiwan, jewels of teas

Wu Long teas from Taiwan are among the best teas in the world. By the way, we will receive beautiful Bao Zhong teas in a few days.

However, of that island, we easily have an image of a country whose activity is turned towards electronics and other micro-electronic components. In any case, not the image of an island whose territory is mainly covered by mountains. Taiwan is indeed divided by central ranges spreading from north to south and is very much appreciated by hiking lovers who enjoy walking on its small steep paths. During my trips, I can often see some of them, tired and out of breath but delighted by the beautiful landscapes around them.

This geography offering coolness and humidity combines the ideal conditions to grow high quality teas and we come across plantations a little bit everywhere in the country, each region producing distinct designations. The best Taiwanese teas are the “blue-green” or semi-oxidized: lightly oxidized Bao Zhong, Wu Long rolled up in perls (Jing Xuan, Gao Shan Cha) and Bai Hao Wu Longs.

Carine (see the post My travelling companions of last Friday) took this photo when we were in the county of Nantou in the centre of Taiwan. You can see the village of Lu Gu, perched on the crest of the Shan Lin Xi mountains, not far from the lake with the same name and near the place where great Dong Ding teas are produced.

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