A few countries come to our minds when talking about tea plantation. Taiwan is one of them. The small country in East Asia produces some of the finest tea in the world. The pride of Taiwan, Alishan tea is famous for its deep and complex flavor. So let’s find out more about tea cultivation, production, health benefits, and also where to buy this excellent variety of oolong tea.
What is Alishan Tea?
Alishan tea is a famous high mountain oolong tea from Ali Shan or Ali Mountain in Taiwan. It locates in Chiayi in the southern part of the central mountain range. Consist of 18 mountains, Ali Shan is the largest mountain range in Taiwan.
High mountain tea is a term used for Taiwanese tea that grows at an altitude of 1000 meters and higher. They harvest it twice a year, mostly in June and October.
Alishan tea has a pale yellow to golden emerald color. The flavor is vivid, balance with some pleasant sweetness. It has a soft floral aroma and creamy, long-lasting aftertaste. It is excellent as an afternoon tea. This tea is often consumed during social gatherings in Taiwan.
Various tea farms in Taiwan offers guests great accommodation with views overlooking the lush tea fields. You can experience enchanting bamboo forests, ancient trees, hiking trails, and beautiful tea plantations.
How is Alishan Tea grow, cultivate, and process?
Alishan tea mostly grows in a thinner atmosphere and altitude of 1000 – 1500m. The low temperature in a humid and foggy area is ideal for the growth of Alishan oolong tea. In this environment, the tea plants can grow slowly, creating tender tea leaves with a higher concentration of nutrients and flavor compounds.
Alishan tea is hand-picked from buds with 2 to 3 young leaves. After that, the tea leaves are gathered, withered, and lightly mashed. This process bruises the tea leaves and breaks down the tissues of the cell. The tea starts the oxidation process for 8 hours.
Next, the tea leaves are carefully pressed and rolled into small tea balls. The last step of producing Alishan tea, much like other oolong tea, is to roast the tea leaves lightly. This step stops the oxidation process and helps caramelize the tea leaves. It also prevents the tea from developing into black tea.
Alishan tea holds a lot of good health properties. It carries a moderate level of polyphenols and antioxidants. Regular consumption of oolong tea can help fight free radicals and other volatile compounds in our bodies. It has proved to prevent and slow down the growth of cancer-causing cells.
Studies found out that drink one or more cups of oolong tea per day can lower total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels (Medical News Today). The risk of heart diseases is also lower. Besides, it can improve digestive health, bone strength, and skin conditions.
One cup of brewed Alishan tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine. Since it is semi-oxidized, the caffeine content is moderate. It holds more caffeine than green tea but less than black tea. If you want to limit your caffeine intake but still want to drink tea with great flavor, Alishan tea may be the right choice for you.
Varieties and Price
Different varieties of Alishan tea has a different price tag. The price can range from $17 to $35 per 150 grams.
Flat plantation (attitude 500 – 700m) tea is cheaper than mountain plantation (attitude 700 – 1100m) and alpine plantation (attitude 1100 – 1200m). The higher up the mountain the tea plant is grown, the higher the price because it is more difficult to find suitable growing conditions.
One of the best and usually most expensive Alishan tea is from Shihjhuo township, a small village on the top of Ali Mountain in Taiwan (attitude 1300m and above). The price of tea from this region would be twice the price of regular type.
For a more robust aroma and taste, you can try to find strong-baked Alishan tea. This variety is made from selected tea leaves and baked more times than regular Alishan oolong tea.
Where to buy Alishan tea?
You can buy Alishan tea from specialty tea shops or online tea vendors. Most of them carry some varieties. The only tricky part is that the information you find about that particular tea can be limited. You would need to taste test to find the best for your taste.
If you ever visit Taiwan on holiday, you can find it in a lot of places. Lin Mao Sen Tea Co and Lin Hua Tai Tea shops in Taipei sell a wide range of premium tea and accessories.
A visit to Ali Shan or Ali mountain, a renowned tea plantation area, is highly recommended. It would help you to understand more about the tea, how it grows, produce while being in the lush tea fields. Alishan tea can be a perfect gift for the tea lovers in your family.
How to brew Alishan tea?
It is quick and flexible to brew Alishan tea. You can use a teapot or tea mug for this process.
- Prepare a kettle of water (8 fl. oz), bring to a boil
- Pour the hot water into a teapot, tilt it a bit, and rotate so that the hot water creep up all the way around. Then empty the water out
- Put one teaspoon (about 3 grams) of tea into the teapot
- Fill the teapot with hot water (194 – 205ºF, 90 – 95º C), cover with a lid
- Steep it for 1 – 2 minutes
- Pour to an individual teacup and enjoy
The tea can be steeped for 5 – 7 times depends on the tea varieties and your personal taste. Add in 20 to 30 seconds for each additional infusion. You can experiment with the amount of tea and steeping times as desired.