Tea Time: All About Oolong (Part Two - Taiwan)

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[Photos: Liz Clayton]

In the mid-1800s, oolong tea, already well-rooted in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces of China, cleverly found its way across the "Black Ditch" strait to Taiwan—or Formosa, as it was then known.

Many are credited for the fortuitous transplantation of these tea plants, which would ultimately make as great a name for themselves in this new growing region as they had in their home soil. Among the most famous are Scottish tea merchant, John Dodd, who came to Formosa in 1860 and recognized the potential to grow a tea exporting business from this fertile, tea-cultivation-friendly island. Working together with Fujian native and future Taiwan tea rockstar Li Chung-shen, Dodd imported oolong seedlings from China and boosted the popularity of Taiwanese teas throughout the world.

Among the most esteemed Taiwanese oolongs are the High Mountain oolongs, which include the popular Dong Ding (sometimes written Tung Ting), and the more recently cultivated Ali Shan oolong. (The elevation at which teas fall into the High Mountain category is somewhat imprecise, but they can be grown anywhere upwards of 1000 meters.)

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Taiwanese oolongs have flavor profiles unique to their growing region—at times, these teas are more florally delicate than their Chinese counterparts, but each offers its own personality in the cup.

Here's a bit of what you'll taste:

Dong Ding
This high elevation rolled tea, credited with import to Taiwan by a diligent government worker named Lin Feng Chi, is not heavily oxidized, resulting in a gentle-handed delivery of tropical fruit flavors. A good Dong Ding is a mild, sweet, completely pleasurable tea experience. Find online

Bai Hao
An almost shockingly fruity, honey-heavy twisted oolong, moderately oxidized and with a perfumey aroma that mellows in the cup. A sweet, dry, stone fruit finish. Find online

Bao Zhong
Lightly oxidized Bao Zhong is a joyfully delicate, slightly creamy, twisted oolong with a long-lasting floral aroma and flavor. Find online

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