top of page

Taiwanese teas that aren't oolong

As was discussed earlier, Taiwan is famous for oolong tea. That does not mean that other teas made in Taiwan are of any worse quality. Quite the contrary, Taiwanese red (black) teas are well-known around the world. Green and white teas produced on the island are also of respectable quality, albeit not as actively marketed as the other teas.


For your navigation:

 

Taiwanese black tea


Taiwanese black tea is primarily made from large leaf cultivars such as #18 Ruby and #21 Hongyun. To fully oxidize, the leaves undergo extensive indoor withering and rolling to damage the leaves and expose the chemicals to the atmosphere. Then the tea polyphenols react with oxidizing enzymes, making the magic happen. The area around Sun Moon Lake is the largest black tea producing region in Taiwan. This is because it is located deeper inland and has a hotter climate, which is ideal for black tea.


#18 Ruby black tea has is highly aromatic with hints of cinnamon and mint in its fragrance, and has a sweet taste. Honey Fragrance Black, on the other hand, is prized for its smooth, sweet and rounded taste. TBRS describes proper Taiwanese black teas as having a vibrant, glossy red liquor, which is the reason why what is called "black tea" in English is called "red tea" in Chinese. The proper leaves of a Taiwanese black tea should be black, oily and lustrous. They should appear somewhat moist and have a purple sheen. Of course, due to the many varieties of black teas, each of them has its own specific appearance and taste.


How to prepare Taiwanese black tea?

Black tea is suitable to drink in all possible ways. Some black teas are more aromatic and can better open their full potential when made in a small brewing vessel, while others have a more rounded taste and mild aroma, which is also perfectly suitable for brewing in a large pot or even a mug.


Ruby #18 black tea in a glass cup

Low commitment: in a mug


Making Taiwanese tea in a mug doesn't require much effort. Simply add 1 flat tbsp of tea to the mug and steep in 85-90°C water for about 3–4 minutes. You can repeat the process as many times as you see fit.


If you have a highly aromatic tea such as ruby # 18, I personally would recommend pouring the water into the mug first and then adding the tea. Doing it this way instead of splashing water on top of the leaves will ensure a more balanced extraction of aroma and taste.


Ruby # 18 black tea in a gaiwan

High commitment: in a small pot or a gaiwan


TBRS recommends preheating a small vessel (less than 200ml) with water. Discard the water before filling it to one-fifth with black tea leaves and steeping in 80-90°C water for 60 seconds. Consecutive steeps can increase by 15, 20 and 40 seconds in length. Black teas are very diverse and require experimentation with the amount of leaf in the teapot, the temperature and the steeping times. Try playing around with these variables and see what combination suits your taste the best.


Long Jin green tea leaves
Long Jin green tea leaves

Taiwanese green tea


Green tea on average has the lowest oxidation level of all tea types. While not as famous as oolong or black tea, Taiwanese green tea is of great quality and stands proudly among its mainland Chinese neighbors. In fact, local farmers aim to keep high quality standards and respectable price for their teas, because cheaper green tea (due to vastly lower labor costs) is easily available in Taiwan through Vietnamese imports. Green tea doesn't go through the withering and leaf shaking stages of production, but instead landing straight on the pan for frying, where the leaves are sealed with heat. Later, the leaves are rolled, broken and dried.


Sanxia district in New Taipei City is the sole remaining area specializing in the production of pan-fried green teas like Bi Luo Chun (碧螺春, bì luó chūn) and Long Jin (龍井, lóng jīn). Bi luo chun leaves are blueish-green to silver-green in appearance and often have white hairs intact. Both the fragrance of the leaves and the taste of the tea are fresh, bright and clear. Farmers in Taiwan take an extra step before pan-frying to dry the bi luo chun leaves in the sun and improve the flavor. This kind of tea has what is referred to as having the "beauty of four extremes": beautiful shape, fresh green color, impressive aroma and sweet taste.


How to prepare Taiwanese green tea?

Green tea can be enjoyed in a glass cup or teapot, displaying how the leaves are opening up in the water. It has a cooling effect on the body and can be drunk in hot weather.



Low commitment: in a glass

Fill the glass with 70-80°C water add enough leaves to fill one-third of the mug and steep for about 1 minute. You can repeat the process as many times as you see fit. If you enjoy some more bitter notes, feel free to drive the temperature up to your taste. Adding the leaves into the water instead of pouring the water into the leaves allows for a more balanced flavor extraction, as well as reducing the amount of bubbles and tea debris floating in the brew.


Green tea prepared in a gaiwan

High commitment: in a small pot or a gaiwan


Preheat the pot and discard the water before filling it to one-third with green tea leaves and steeping in 70-80°C water for 60 seconds. Consecutive steeps can increase by 15, 30 and 40 seconds in length. Personally, I find porcelain better suited for green tea than clay. It lets the aromas open while visually enhancing the vibrant green leaves.


White tea leaf with white hairs still intact
White tea leaf with white hairs still intact

Taiwanese white tea


White tea is rare in Taiwan. Recently, some farmers began experimenting with its production, but it's still hard to come by. This makes it ever so more exciting to come across a good white tea hailing from the island.


There is no one definition for this type of tea, but most agree that this type of tea has minimal processing and is not rolled or oxidized. White tea tends to have a mild aroma and fragrance, much lighter than most oolong and green tea. It is also important to use young leaves for white tea, which is why you will find white hairs still intact on the dry leaves or buds.


How to prepare Taiwanese white tea?


White tea is particularly suitable for those who prefer milder tea. As an avid drinker of heavier, darker teas, it took me some time to learn how to appreciate the gentle profile of this kind of tea. Prom personal observation, I found that white tea affects people differently: some people report feeling energized after drinking white tea, while I tend to get more relaxed if not sleepy after drinking white tea. Try and see for yourself whether this is a good tea for you to drink before sleep.



Low commitment: in a glass

Just like with green tea, white tea can be made by adding 1-2 tbsp to a glass prefilled with 85-90°C water and letting it steep for one minute, extending the steeping time by one minute every time.


Ilya is brewing white tea in a gaiwan sitting on a log in a forest
Tea in nature


High commitment: in a small pot or a gaiwan

To prepare white tea in a smaller preheated vessel, fill it to one-third or one-half with the tea leaves and let them steep in 80-90°C water for 30–45 seconds, extending the brewing time by about 15 seconds each time. When brewing at lowers temperatures (80°C), feel free to keep the brewing times longer to get a smooth, rounded, flavor profile.


Conclusion

Taiwanese tea landscape is diverse, and there are still teas we haven't talked about, such as GABA teas, aged teas and wild growth teas. Along with the teas, there are diverse methods of brewing them. Attentive eyes might have spotted that the brewing suggestions in this and previous article differ from the instruction written on our teas. This is because the instructions provided by TBRS are aimed at drawing out the full flavor profile of each tea category, generalizing all the teas within it. The brewing instructions written on our teas are based on my personal experience with these specific teas and are simply my personal preference.


Tea demands time and effort. By cultivating an understanding for each tea, one learns about themselves their own preferences, habits... I'm getting ahead of myself. The topic of tea culture in Taiwan and our personal journeys with tea will be discussed in future articles. Happy tea drinking!


Here you can jump right to the next article.

 

This article uses the information provided by the Tea and Beverage Research Station TBRS

Comentários


bottom of page