The History of Taiwanese Oolong Tea
In the early 1800's tea merchants from Fujian, China brought some tea seeds to Taiwan to test the soil and see how well the plants would grow there. It proved to be a great success, the seeds adapted exceptionally well to the soil and the climate in Taiwan. From then on, tea production started rapidly and it became very widespread in Taiwan, producing some of the finest tea trees in the World today.
However, in the beginning most of the tea had to be delivered back to Fujian to be processed and then sent back to Taiwan. This changed in 1868 when a British man named John Dodd decided this was hugely inefficient, so instead, he hired some Fujian tea masters to setup tea processing in Taipei. Dodd wanted to simplify the tea manufacturing process by having it manufactured in Taiwan without the need to export it back to China.
This worked out very well, and in the following year Dodd shipped 127 tonnes of what was then called Formosa tea to the United States, which was unheard of at the time and it became a great success and grew in popularity.
From then on, Oolong tea has been the most widely exported type of tea from Taiwan, exporting to Europe and different countries around the World.
Today, there are many areas in Taiwan that cultivate oolong teas, but the best teas are grown in the mountains of central Taiwan as the growing conditions there are ideal – high mountains in a subtropical climate create the cool humid conditions which oolong tea plants thrives on.
How Oolong Tea is Processed
All teas are from the tea plant Camellia sinensis, different types of teas are processed differently by its fermentation. Similar to fruits, i.e: bananas or apples, it turns brown once they are exposed to oxygen, the same thing happens to tea leaves. Green tea are green because it is unfermented, black tea are black/dark brown because it is fully fermented. Oolong tea are in between the two, which is semi-fermented, depending on the different variety of oolong teas, the fermentation is between 10%-70%. The fermentation process is halted as soon as the tea leaves begin to change their color. It is a more complex process, which has been mastered by the Taiwanese tea famers/makers throughout the centuries.
Oolong tea has a fragrant with a fruity flavor and a pleasant aroma. The fermentation process gives oolong tea more flavors than green tea but not as strong and heavy as black tea. Oolong tea is light and refreshing, and it offers more health benefits than green tea and black tea, as its leaves are only partially fermented. There are numerous kinds of tea in this world; but oolong tea might be one of the most beneficial.
Taiwan oolong tea has a distinctive taste and aroma, it is said that brewing the tea in purple clay teapot with spring water, which contains high mineral contents, will yield the best tasting tea.
A Legend of Oolong Tea