Wulong tea was born when it was discovered that a new style of producing a partially oxidized tea could create such unique distinct flavors in tea. Although making this type of tea required a new somewhat advanced skill. This skill and the techniques of making this wulong tea spread from the Fujian province south to Anxi and Guandong, then eventually across the strait to Taiwan around 1810.
The History Of Formosa Oolong Tea
Taiwan oolong tea is also known as Formosa oolong tea. Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to visit Taiwan; they were so impressed by the beauty they encountered they called it Isla Formosa, meaning “beautiful island”. The wulong tea grown here continues to be called Formosa oolong.
Even though it wasn’t originally discovered here, Taiwan produces some of the best wulong tea in the world. Part of this is because they have a mature tea culture, but they also have ideal growing conditions — a subtropical climate with high mountain elevations creating a cool, humid condition that is perfect for growing oolong tea. The best formosa oolong is grown in the mountains in central Taiwan.
High Standards Makes For A Quality Tea
Another reason Taiwan produces such impressive oolong tea is because Taiwan didn’t collectivize their tea farms which allowed for free market competition. The government has supported research and rising incomes have also helped the area produce these high quality wulong teas.
Because of the high demand and the strong tea culture most of the Taiwan oolong tea is produced for local consumption, although a limited amount is exported. The Taiwanese demand the best and are very discriminating tea drinkers. This is probably why they have become so skilled in firing tea — they generally prefer lightly fired fragrant wulong teas.
Formosa oolong tea has competed with Wu Yi oolong tea for decades, but Formosa oolong has become the leader of high quality wulong tea. Formosa oolong tea is considered one of the finest teas produced. This has made it an important economic plant in Taiwan.
The production of high quality formosa oolong tea is very labor intensive and low yielding. But even though most of the Formosa oolong tea is consumed locally it is still an important export for Taiwan.
The Flavor Of Formosa Oolong
Because the weather in Taiwan can be quite varied the quality of Formosa oolong can differ each season. It’s a small island but the geography is diverse with steep mountains jetting out of low-lying coastal plains. Factors including the temperature, weather patters, soil and altitudes can create differences in the look, smell and taste of Taiwan oolong teas.
Formosa oolong tea is somewhat similar to Anxi Oolong tea in that it is generally only lightly oxidized. The leaves of both of these wulong teas are rolled into balls, different from the Wu Yi Oolong and Dan Cong leaves which are rolled lengthwise. Formosa oolong generally has a lighter taste with a lingering aftertaste that is sometimes stronger than the immediate flavor.
A high quality Formosa oolong tea not only depends on the quality of the tea leaf but the experience of the tea craftsman. To know if you’re drinking a good quality Taiwan oolong tea take a look at the leaves. You shouldn’t notice damage on most of the leaves and they should look mostly whole after they have infused and unfold.
Taiwan’s unique climate and soil blend well to produce a high quality wulong tea. Their agricultural and production techniques have been studied and copied but their consistent level of quality oolong has been hard to match. Taiwan oolong teas are some of the finest in the world. So if you haven’t already explored the world of Formosa oolong teas give them a try. You’re in for a treat.