Taiwan is an island country consisting of as many as 85 islands, situated within the south China sea. The dominate tea growing region is on the largest island.
With varying altitudes and rain falls, it’s rugged geography makes for perfect climatic conditions ideal for growing tea, especially those used in the production of Oolong. Taiwan does very well as a tea producing country due to its tropical and semi tropical regions.
Early settlement of Taiwan began around the 13th C by people of the Han Dynasty. But Taiwan has been an island of interest by the Japanese, the Portuguese (naming the island in 1544 Ilha Formosa or Beautiful Island and the Dutch which in 1624 established a colony for trade and protection of the trade routes. The building of the Dutch colonies was accomplished through the use of slave labour brought in from the Fujian province.
The Fujianese labourers brought with them the knowledge of tea and its cultivation. The methods of tea production as well as many of the seeds and cuttings came from Wuyi Mountain region of the Fujian province in China, hence the connection with Oolong in Taiwan.
Taiwan though produces 3 main types of tea Oolong, Black and Green and most of it stays within Taiwan – this means only about 20% is being exported.
Oolong (meaning Black Dragon) Is a tea that undergoes a gentle whole leaf process of drying and withering on bamboo baskets, rolling, semi-oxidizating (either long 80-90% or short 10-20%) and finally pan firing, or roasting of the leaves, which lowers the moisture and stops the oxidation process.
Each tea growing region produces their own unique oolong, some of the most famous being Dong ding, Oriental beauty and Ti Quan yin.
In the year 1855, Linfengchi removed Oolong tea trees from the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian province of China and traveled to Dong Ding, which is in Lugu, Taiwan. Once he arrived in Taiwan, he replanted the tea trees, beginning the history of the Dong Ding Oolong , one of Taiwan’s most famous teas. During 1858, a British company at that time called Jardine Mantheson & Co. bought semi-finished Oolong tea from Taiwan, spreading it around the world.
The earliest records of wild indigenous tea trees is of Camellia sinensis forma formosensis. But was considered to bitter and thin in body to be palatable. This plant though was later hybridized with Camellia sinensis v. assamica to produce a black tea during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan of 1895-1945
Green tea or Dragon well tea is produced mainly in Sanxia, Taipei County region.
In the beginning of the Taiwanese tea trade the semi-processed leaves used to to China to be processed until John Dodd a business man from England in 1860’s brought Fuijian Tea masters to Taipei. The following year sent 127 tonnes to the USA, it was a success and exports around the world began.
Thus John Dodd was primary in developing the export of tea eventually to become one of the top 3 exports of Taiwan. The earliest being Formasa Oolong tea in 1865 baozhong tea in 1881.