I was born and grew up in Taiwan, it is naturally that I have special feeling towards Taiwanese tea. However, when it comes to the topic about tea, I choose to be honest to the purity, authenticity and quality of tea but not judging based on the bias views towards specific region or country.
No doubt about it, Taiwanese teas are very good, but it is not fair for us to say Taiwanese teas are better than the others. It is all coming from the family of Camellia sinensis, but there are many different kind of tea tree cultivars because of the soil, water, altitude and microenvironment. In Taiwan we have developed very unique tea tree cultivars for Oolong and Black Tea, our growing microenvironment is very suitable for tea trees; we preserve the old processing techniques from the early migrants from China to Taiwan in the 16th/17th century, and we have unique traditional way of tea brewing and drinking culture…. All of these are able to create a very unique sphere and taste from the Taiwanese tea. So when we compare tea, it would be only fair if we could take these variances into consideration.
In the early 80’s, Taiwan tea farms moved from low altitude to high mountain, it first started from Mei Shan from Alishan and then moved higher and higher areas on the Central Mountains region. Therefore, Gaoshan Oolong gradually take the lead and appreciated by tea lovers around the world today. I have tasted many light fermented Gaoshan oolong from Taiwan since 1995, some are so light fermented that indeed we can be attracted by its fine aroma and flavor, but the strength in taste the smoothness seems are not as good as the traditional fermented with the roasting process of tea that I enjoyed in the past. This light fermentation process has also unfortunately influenced the development of Anxi Tie Guan Yin. I am not the only one who has this feeling, because many foreign friends who I shared the taste of traditional fermented with roasting Tie Guan Yin, they share the similar viewpoint.
Many Taiwanese tea farmers migrated to China and Vietnam in 1991. They brought not only their expertise, life-time experience and culture but also Taiwanese tea tree cultivars. All those years their hard works have influenced the change of culture and helped to improve the tea varieties and quality in the local hosting region/s. It is not fair to deny their efforts, on the contrary the best way to advance the quality of Taiwanese tea is to face and accept this development without pre-conceived differentiation mind.
Taiwan is not a very big island and there are many tea drinkers and tea lovers. we can’t deny there are also many dishonest tea traders. Because of limited of land, so there is limited quantity of good quality tea per year but there are many consumers who choose tea based on price or the marketing publicity they read from the newspaper, TV or on line media. So how to purchase authentic good quality tea is also very challenging in Taiwan.
There are hand-picked good quality teas in other countries as well, but sometimes even the local people can’t afford or have difficult to purchase. Some people purchase tea based on their nose, but for me, I try to stick to the purity and authentic flavor and taste. Because I recognize I am the one who is responsible for my health based on the life style I choose. The decision is on me, but not on tea.
Tea lovers around the world share the similar preference for good quality tea: the taste should be smooth and sweet with fine aroma and olfaction. If you choose tea based on your nose and only drink once (less than 3 infusions from the same cup/pot of tea), then the chance for you to fall in love with aromatic tea is big. Is it good or bad? Well, it is your decision to make about your health and life style.