Taiwanese (Formosa) Tea
Formosa means "Beautiful Island" in Portuguese and was the name given to Taiwan by Portuguese Explorers in 1544. While it is no longer called Formosa today, the name stuck in the tea trade. The first tea bushes were planted in Taiwan roughly 300 years ago. The plants were transferred from China's Fujian province, which faces the island from the eastern coast of China. Taiwan is known primarily for its Oolong teas, and its people have a passion for tea culture nearly unrivaled anywhere else. There are a total of five harvests, starting in April and ending in December.
Taiwan is also the only major producer to evaluate all three aspects of tea experience when grading: leaf appearance, aroma and flavor. In fact, they take it a step further by hosting annual tea competitions in the major tea growing regions. Farmers submit their finest teas to be judged by a panel of experts, and winning teas are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Farmers who produce gold medal teas receive a lot of attention and a very sizable income from sales of that harvest - at times, it creates a "futures market" for the tea, with people looking to by next year's harvest before the leaf is even on the bush! It's easy to see why: award-winning Taiwanese oolongs can be some of the most expensive teas in the world. They're so loved by the Taiwanese themselves, they often don't make it to the world market for sale.
Famous Formosa Teas
Formosa Pouchong This most lightly oxidized tea has large, wavy, dark green leaves which yield a pale, yellow-golden cup. Pouchong tea is beloved for its delicate floral flavor, buttery texture and sweet, fragrant finish. In Taiwan, the most valued part of this tea is the fragrance, which should linger around hours after the last sip. Example: Formosa Pouchong.
Tung Ting Another lightly oxidized, or "green" Oolong, Tung Ting (or Dong Ding) is notable for its tightly rolled leaves and full, sweet and clean flavor. Ali Shan is another tea in this same style, but is exclusive to Taiwan's Ali Mountain. Deep, fresh aroma, buttery finish, and floral notes like lilac. Example: Ali Shan.
Fancy Formosa The most popular tea coming out of Taiwan goes by the names Fancy Formosa Silver Tip, Oriental Beauty, White Tip (Bai Hao) Pong Fong, Dong Fang Mei Ren, Five Color tea and several others. This beautiful tea is grown in the highlands of northern Taiwan and is usually oxidized roughly 70%. The open leaves and generous white tips distinguish this tea from most other Oolongs. Look for lush, smooth flavors of honey, fruit blossoms, and juicy peaches. Lingering, clean finish and soothing aroma. Example: Formosa Bai Hao #40.