Ali Shan Cha is one of the famous and well-known Taiwan high mountain teas. Some people like Ali San Cha as it is well balanced between Aroma and Flavor. The characteristic of Ali Shan Cha in term of flavor and aroma is similar to Dong Ding Oolong (Non-Fired Tea). The difference is Ali Shan Cha has more delicate flavor and softer drinking sensation than Dong Ding Oolong.
For customer who is beginner in drinking Taiwan tea, we always suggest customer to start with Dong Ding Oolong and then move on to Ali Shan Cha.
It is a wonderful tea if you drink it in morning to afternoon.
1. Production Area
The tea garden gets very strong sunshine in the morning, but it is completely covered by fog in the afternoon.
The tea garden is located on the Ali mountain (Ali Shan) at Nantou County in Central Taiwan. Ali Shan is a very huge mountain that consist of many small mountains in a row. In general, the more number of tea garden exist at lower elevation and limited number exist at higher altitide. Both tea garden produce so-called Ali Shan Cha, yet quality is far different. Our Ali Shan Cha is carefully selected from the tea garden that is located at 1600m. The higher altitude gives significant beneft to the quality of tea as follow.
A: Huge temperature gap between day time and night time.
Higher up on the mountain, the sunshine is stronger. Likewise, we easily get sun-burned when we go to higher altitudes for trekking or sky diving. Tea receives a lot of sunshine in a day time and effectively carries out photosynthesis. Tea produces a lot of organic substances and stores them inside its leaf. At night, the tea leaves will consume the energy (organic substance) for metabolism. At high altitudes, the environment is very different and the temperature at night is very cold that tea can hardly proceed metabolism effectively. After all, most of the organic substances are accumulated inside tea leaves which makes the taste of tea becomes very thick.
B: Winter comes earlier and Spring comes later
In winter, the mineral absorbed by the tea trees from the ground will be accumulated inside the tree. It is because of the plant remains dormant during the very cold environment. This is the resting period of the plant. More mineral will be accumulated in the tree if the resting period is prolonged. The accumulated mineral will be distributed into the first up-coming tea leaves in spring. Mineral in tea is the primary element that contributes to the long lasting after taste. In a way, the longer the resting period of tea, the better the taste of tea.
At high mountain like Ali Shan, winter comes earlier while spring comes later as compared to lower altitude areas. As such, the tea trees has even longer resting period. Tea contains an extraordinary amount of minerals.
2. Cultivar and Plucking
Tea Garden of High Mountain Oolong
Our Ali Shan Cha Quig ?Xin is produced from Qing-Xin Oolong (青心烏龍種). This is the cultivars traditionally used for Dong Ding Oolong that gives a very refreshing taste. The taste of tea made of this particular cultivar is flowery and sharp, yet it gives long lasting taste that longer on our throat.
Tea grown at organic garden appears to be less active and less productivity as tea gets less nutrition and pesticide as compared to the ordinary tea garden. As the identical characteristics, tea leaf turns into yellow color and sweetness in flavor and taste is outstanding.
Plucking is carried out by hand. 3 to 4 leaves including a bud is carefully plucked. Plucking is carried out in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The best quality is produced either from Spring or Winter. At the lower elevation in Ali Shan, plucking is sometimes carried out more than 10 times. Less number of plucking allows longer resting period to the tree that enable tea to absorb more mineral.
Our Ali Shan Cha is grown at 1600m. Thanks to the limited number of plucking throughout the year, tea contains more amount of mineral that gives strong flavor.
High Mountain Tea Garden
This is the tea leaf that is attacked by green flies and turns into yellow in color
Sunshine Withering of High Mountain Tea
After plucking, the tea leaves are spread over the ground under the natural sunshine. It is called Sunshine Withering. Usually clouded weather is ideal to grow this tea in order to avoid excess damage on tea leaves. If the sunny weather continues, a black cloth is used to cover the tea leaves to block out the harsh rays of sunshine. With sunshine withering, moisture inside the tea leaves gets evaporated and fermentation is moderately triggered. The tea leaves will gradually start releasing a refreshing aroma.
The method of fermentation for oolong tea is completely different from that of black tea. After the sunshine withering is completed, tea leaves are conveyed into the factory and spread over a sheet.
If the tea leaves are rich in moisture, they are spread into a thin layer in order to increase the evaporation process. The tea leaves are then tossed onto a bamboo tray. This agitation and tossing, causes friction and bruises the tea leaves which in turn causes the tea leaves to start fermentation.
Tea leaves are tossed onto a slanted bamboo tray in order to bruise them slightly.
Trays are then stored and fermentation of tea leaves will takes place.
The tray is then placed on a rack and these processes are repeated several times. This is called fermentation. Tea leaves gets oxidation mediated by the oxidative enzyme when the tea leaves get bruised.
Once entering the fermentation room, you might be surprised with its fragrance. You feel as if you are in a flower garden. Subsequently tea leaves are rotated in a bamboo drum. The tea leaves are lifted and dropped several times. Gradually the edge of tea leaves get damaged and further fermentation takes place. Tea leaves are again spread over the bamboo tray and the same process is repeated over and over again.
Once tea leaves get sufficient fermentation, it starts generating a flowery fragrance. Tea that is processed by a fine tea master is easily distinguishable. The original shape is maintained without any damage done to the tea leaves and only the edge of tea leaves are found to be red in color. This indicates that the tea leaves were successfully semi-fermented and the quality is far different from the tea leaves which have a reddish appearance at the center part of the leaf. Once the tea master finds that fermentation is sufficiently achieved, the tea is then sent for heat treatment in order to arrest further fermentation process. If this is not carried out swiftly, the tea leaves will keep on fermenting and it will finally turn into black tea.
The number of rotation and timing of fermentation is judged based on the moisture content, flavor and color. This decision requires top-notch experienced tea technicians which affects the quality of tea tremendously. All technicians follow the instruction of a tea master. In order to get good quality tea, we need to pick out an excellent tea master.
At this stage, tea is fermented and gives an identical character of Dong Ding Oolong. However the tea leave have not been damaged or bruised except for its edges. Without physical damage on tea leaves, it is difficult to "brew". On the other hand, conducting the rolling process as black tea where tea leaves are twisted tautly under strong pressure, the tea leaves will be excessively damaged and will be astringent and harsh in taste. In addition, excessive damage of leaves expose constituents to the oxygen and cause unwanted oxidation that will also affect to the taste and flavor. Therefore the very unique rolling process called "Bag rolling" is used for oolong tea. Literary tea leaves are wrapped in a piece of cloth and rolled. Therefore, the tea leaves are twisted just right with the right amount of pressure applied.
While the tea leaves are still warm and soft, it is quickly wrapped in a cloth bag. About 10-20kg of tea leaf is wrapped and it is made into the size of about a basket ball. Then the end of cloth is mechanically twisted by machine in order to squeeze it into a very solid ball. Finally it becomes as solid as a stone ball and as a result the tea leaves are compressed very tightly.
Then, the cloth ball is clamped between disks at the top and bottom. The top disk does not move while the bottom disk rotate and tea gets further pressure through the motion. After the rolling process is conducted for a while, the bag is opened and the tea leaves are taken out and reheated again in a rotating drum. This is necessary as once the tea leaves cool down, it becomes crispy and easily crushed. This series of processes are repeated several times until it is well rolled.
The tea leaves are gradually tighten and become round in shape. High grade tea is usually very solid and it appears to be dark and shiny as the juice of the tea leaf is squeezed and hardens on the surface of the leaf.
The same sequence is repeated several times. The parameter is varied depending on the condition of leaf such as moisture content. It is important to feel the condition of tea leaf and apply the suitable method of process which is judge expertly by the tea master.
After this rolling process is completed, the tea leaves are dried and this will reduce the moisture content down to 5%.
Once tea leaves cool down, it becomes brittle. The tea leaves are then heated up inside a rotating drum to soften it again.
While these series of process are being carried out, the tea master is constantly monitoring attentively the condition of tea leaves in each step.
Nearly 10kg of tea leaves are packed in the cloth.