Tag Archive for Taiwanese Tea

Tea 201 - Origin - Where Tea is Grown

Tea Origin by Percentage (c.o. Wikipedia.org)

Tea Origin by Percentage (c.o. Wikipedia.org)

It would not be a proper lesson on tea without sitting down and discussing the origin of tea.  Where is it grown?  More importantly where can it grow?

Let’s start with tea’s origin.  Where did it originally come from?

Originally its natural form was believed to have originated in China.  The most celebrated of teas come from the area of China known as “The Golden Triangle.” This area is found between the mountains of Huang Shan, Mogan Shan, Qi Shan and Tianmu Shan.

In the country of Taiwan, it is well known for its oolong teas.

India has grown in popularity due its Assam teas (which are grown in the Brahmaputra valley) and Darjeeling teas (which is grown in the ex-British hills of the Himalayas).  Darjeeling teas are known as the “Champagne of teas.”

This also spreads into Nepal.  In their side of the Himalayas, they have their own tea that resembles Darjeeling.

Sri Lanka is the source of the famous and fragrant Ceylon tea.  The principle growing regions of this country are Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula and Uva.

Of course, we can never forget Japan renowned for its green sencha, courser bancha and matcha.

But that’s just the Asian countries.

Tea growing has also made its way to East Africa to the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania.   These countries have made a dent in the mark by way of making large quantities of black teas.  However, they have not been able to deliver the same quality of Chinese Yunnan or Indian Darjeeling.

But it does not stop there.  Tea growing has also spread to the Americas to the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the good old USA.

Tea has spread all over the world and it will continue to do so as it continues to also grow in popularity.

Pretty cool, no?

Tea 201 - Blue Teas - Why Oolongs are Special

Don’t panic! The tea is not really blue!  But it is a type of oolong.  It is actually partly oxidized mix of green and black tea collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 青茶; literally "blue-green tea").

But that’s only a part of the category that is oolong.  What is oolong? Why is it so special?  According to some the oolong is considered to be the most complicated tea produced.  One tea master, Lin Zhi, likened tea to painting.    He compared oolongs to oils paintings, green tea to Chinese ink paintings and black teas to water colors.

The word Oolong (or Wulong) comes from the Chinese word 烏龍 meaning ‘black dragon tea.’

There is a legend that during the Ming Dynasty, there was a ban on tea production for about 150 years.  The tea makers essentially had to find different techniques. There were some (likely Buddhist monks) who had invented charcoal roasting techniques in drying their teas.  This slow charcoal roasting along with the oxidization became the defining flavor of Oolong is today.

If you have to look at oolongs more literally, green tea is one extreme while black tea is the other.  Oolongs are the ‘middle ground’ of teas, so to speak.  Greens are not oxidized; black is completely oxidized while the oolongs are everything in between.  The complexity of the tea is due to the fact that oolong is not completely oxidized like black teas.  There’s not even an exact science as to how much the tea can be oxidized to be considered oolong.  The range is anywhere between 15%-75% oxidation.  Because of this fact, the flavor of oolongs is never officially consistent.  The flavors have been known to wood and thick with roasted aromas, green and fresh with a bouquet or sweet and fruity with honey aromas.

The combinations are mind boggling.  But I love the idea of a tea flavor being a form of roulette, you never know what kind of flavor you’ll get.