High-Mountain (Gaoshan) Tea: A Flavorful Oolong Grown in the Mountains of Taiwan

High-mountain tea, also known as gaoshan tea, is a type of Oolong tea grown in the central mountains of Taiwan. It is produced at altitudes higher than 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level and includes several varieties such as Alishan, Dayuling, Yu Shan, Wushe, and Lishan. The high humidity and natural precipitation in the high mountain ranges of Nantou and Chiayi Counties make the region an ideal environment for growing tea plants.

Unlike fermented green tea, high-mountain Oolong tea preserves all its original nutrients, without the usual grassy taste. Instead, it is characterized by hints of chestnut flavor and nutty aromas, which results from the fermentation process that removes harsh ingredients and makes the tea flavorful.

Production of gaoshan tea is a slow process, as the tea leaves are hand-harvested and grow slowly due to the thin air in high altitudes. As a result, the yield of gaoshan tea is relatively low every year. The tea is typically harvested twice a year, with winter gaoshan harvested in late October and spring gaoshan harvested in mid-June.

To process a batch of gaoshan tea, it takes about 36 to 40 hours. Weather permitting, the hand-plucked leaves are spread on top of a tarp, where they develop aromas such as jasmine, rose, and geranium. The tea is then folded to bruise the leaves for oxidation and transferred to another tray to ferment and wither for eight hours. Finally, it is packaged as “handkerchief tea,” where farmers emphasize the quality of the tea rather than the quantity.

Although high-mountain tea is a delicate and slow-growing tea, it is highly sought after for its unique flavor and aroma. Its rarity and high quality make it more expensive than other teas, but its loyal following continues to grow, making it a prized beverage around the world.

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