High Mountain Tea or gāoshān chá（高山茶）is a type of tea that is grown high in the mountains (at least 1,000 m above sea level) and the most popular varieties come from Taiwan. The high altitude exposes the growing tea leaves to high levels of humidity and precipitation that creates a unique variety of Oolong Tea. Because the air is thinner on the mountains than on sea level the tea leaves also grow slower and are therefor more sought after than other types of tea. True High Mountain Tea is also picked by hand instead of by machines so the yearly crop yield is lower than other varieties of tea.
Oolong Tea or wūlóng chá (烏龍茶) is a popular variety of Tea mainly produced in Taiwan and certain parts of China. Oolong can be thought of as being in-between green and black tea. Whether you’re drinking white, green, oolong or black tea they are all coming from the same tea plant (Camellia Sinensis). The difference is in how the tea is picked and processed. White tea is very lightly processed while black tea is the most processed and oolong tea is somewhere in-between. Oolong tea leaves are also allowed to “bake” in the sun and become oxidized before the leaves are twisted and curled. The process for making oolong tea is similar to black tea but more attention and care must be paid to oolong tea to make sure that the leaves are not burnt or over processed. This results in a unique taste and high quality oolong tea can leave a buttery flavor in the drinkers mouth sometimes referred to in Mandarin Chinese as kǒugǎn（口感）.
Taiwan Tea Ceremony (gongfu cha) is a traditional method of drinking oolong tea and is common practice among older Taiwanese tea drinkers. The younger generation usually skips the tea ceremony in favor of bubble tea. High quality oolong tea leaves can be brewed 5 or 6 times and the first brew is usually dumped out as it is used to “open” the tea leaves. A lot of houses in Taiwan will have a tea ceremony set in the living room and the tea is enjoyed throughout the day or offered to guests.
Mike is an avid tea connoisseur and the founder of BubbleTeaology which supplies Premium Bubble Tea Machines to drink shops around the world.