Mary Lou had a first-hand, extensive lesson in semiball-rolled oolong tea manufacture when she visited this family tea producer a few years back. We have been ordering their gao shan tea ever since from both the Spring and Winter harvests.
In the Alishan tea competition (which includes several types of oolong production) our tea farmer has won more than one 1st place for his Alishan oolong and 2nd place awards for his Jin Xuan oolong, which confirms that this 3rd generation tea farmer/producer’s tea-making skills are second-to-none.
Tawian’s tea factories are in full swing from late October into late November, working round the clock to get the fresh leaf made into green gold – both the famous gao shan as well their other oolong manufactures. Each batch of fresh leaf brought to the tea factory requires two full days to become finished tea.
Our Winter pluck Alishan is lightly roasted, which keeps the aromatics high and bright, and gives the tea liquor clarity and a lovely pale golden/green color in the cup. This Winter tea has a pervasive floral fragrance, with a hint of moss and fruit and mineral /stone backbone. It is flavorsome and satisfying in the cup without being bossy and without being overly floral.
The tea was rolled and roasted three separate times and given a three day rest in between each roasting, for a total of 10 days in process. This brings the water content of the leaf down to less than 3%, which ensures that the tea will retain its flavor and aromatic throughout the coming year.
The Alishan mountain range is comprised of many peaks of varying altitudes, and during the day wispy patches of clouds-and-mist develop, blanketing the tea gardens in cool, refreshing mist. Tea gardens cannot be located at the highest elevations of the Alishan because the mountain becomes the Alishan National Park above the elevation at which tea can thrive.
The terroir, and especially this elevation of the Alishan tea gardens, has its own weather, and it is this weather, plus the geology of this elevation, and the overall climatic conditions of this special mountain range that contribute to the unique qualities of Alishan gao shan oolong. Tea bushes that grow here within the mists produce thicker leaves, which means a more concentrated, juicier flavor and a fresh, rich floral aroma.
Winter pluck Alishan teas are not often found in the US – most of this tea is sold to savvy Taiwanese tea connoisseurs who believe that the confident balance of flavor and aroma of Alishan gao shan makes it the most delicious and unique of the high mountain oolongs.
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