Tea has been grown on the island of Taiwan (formerly Formosa) since the early 1700s. Its unique growing conditions are ideal for tea—black, green, and oolong teas are all produced here. About a hundred small tea companies grow tea in the mountainous regions to the north and northeast, producing the partially oxidized tea known as “oolong” or “black dragon.” Falling between black and green teas in oxidation and in flavor, oolongs yield an aromatic flavor with a full bouquet as their leaves unfurl completely. “Fancy” oolong is produced from the first flush harvest.
To produce oolongs, the tea leaves undergo numerous processing cycles, carefully monitored and controlled; total oxidation can range from 10% to 85%. After withering, leaves may be tossed, which bruises them, and hand rolled, which breaks them down a bit. These oxidation steps are alternated with resting periods and/or drying, which slows or stops oxidation. These steps are calculated to develop unique and complex flavors, and the quality of the final product depends on the skill of the person who determines and carries out the production process.
Because the tea leaves are handled so extensively during this labor-intensive process, it is crucial to test oolongs for purity. Our German suppliers test all our teas, both in the garden and after production, and we are able to offer several fine Formosa oolongs.
The premium Fancy Superior Taifu (above left) is a tippy tea that has been oxidized about 60% and is known as “Five Color Tea” for its spectrum of brown hues. Dark Pearl is produced from tea grown in the Tai Tung area in eastern Taiwan; the leaves have been carefully plucked, withered, and then shaped into pearl form by hand.