Tea from Taiwan, Featured Vendor

The vendor profile for Tea from Taiwan is a part of our Taiwanese Tea Vendor Series, covering a number of Taiwanese-tea specialized vendors that sell to the west.

Tea from Taiwan was one of the first vendors based in Taiwan that sold to the west. Founded by Ross MacIver in the early 2000s, Tea from Taiwan launched their current website in 2005 and has continued to be a reliable and consistent source of Taiwanese oolongs to an English-speaking audience (as well as an information source!). Tea from Taiwan currently features 17 different Taiwanese teas (originally seven), with 12 of their offerings falling into high-elevation territory (>1000 meters elevation). Looking back at older versions of their web store, Ross has consistently promoted transparency in the form of harvest date and elevation for their teas (when I inquired about Tea from Taiwan’s cultivars and elevations, Ross was prompt and forthcoming in his reply). This is a wonderful thing for tea vendors to provide and has improved considerably in recent years. It’s also very commonly overlooked by newcomers to the online tea world or people simply looking for the “best deals” in the intimidating world of premium tea purchasing.

Alishan Mountain

Alishan Mountain. Source: Tea from Taiwan

With free shipping for orders >$60, Tea from Taiwan is an all-around solid vendor and a great place for beginners, intermediate, and advanced tea drinkers to put in medium-sized orders to get their Taiwanese oolong fix. It should be also noted that Tea from Taiwan has discounts for first orders as well as free shipping on their sample packs.

Editor’s Note: A full price-list of Tea from Taiwan’s offerings can be found at the bottom of this article or on Tea from Taiwan.
Editor’s Note #2: It should be noted that like Origin Tea, Tea from Taiwan has several offerings from the same mountain (Three Lishans, Two Shan Li Xis).

Additional Resources:

Tea from Taiwan Premium Teas

Long Feng Xia, Hua Gang, Da Yu Ling. Premium Tea from Taiwan teas. Source: Tea from Taiwan

ABOUT TEA FROM TAIWAN

Tea from Taiwan has been selling tea online for quite a while, compared with many other online vendors. Can you explain a little about when and why you decided to source tea and how Tea from Taiwan got started?

I first came to Taiwan in 1999 and was amazed by the fabulous food and beverages. My only exposure to oolong tea prior to coming to Taiwan was that horrible twiggy stuff they serve in Chinese  restaurants. So it was a revelation to drink “real” oolong tea, and I was quickly drawn into the Taiwan tea world of connoisseurs and pot collectors. My wife is a Taiwan native and her family has been in the tea business for many years, so it was very easy to extend their business with a website to reach western tea lovers.

What advantages does being based in Taiwan give Tea from Taiwan and Tea from Taiwan’s consumers?

Being in Taiwan allows us to keep in contact with our tea growers (Tea from Taiwan is based in Chia Yi City in Southern Taiwan, near Alishan). We are able to visit all of our farmers at least twice a year to see how current crops are faring. This allows us to choose the best tea from each region

You offer an interesting and diverse range of Taiwanese tea? How do you choose where to source from? Do you usually use the same sources for tea?

We specialize in the high mountain teas of central Taiwan, a fairly broad region that is divided into several distinct tea areas. We buy directly from tea farmers, and have been dealing with the same farmers for many years. In each tea area, there are several tea farms that we deal with, which allows us to choose the best tea in any given season.

What is your opinion on organic farming? Do you offer any organic teas?

We do offer several organic teas which vary from season to season. We deal with a few organic tea farmers in each tea area, but our buying decisions are influenced more by the quality of the tea than whether or not it’s organic. Our tea is grown in the high mountains of Taiwan, a cool and moist climate, which in itself reduces the need for pesticides as bug infestation is not as common as at lower altitudes. If a tea farmer chooses to use pesticides, they will be applied during the summer months, and since we are buying primarily from the winter and spring harvests, there are several months between pesticide application and harvest, plenty of time for residues to break down.

Lishan Mountain

Lishan Mountain Source: Tea from Taiwan

ORDERING TEA

If you were just looking to get into tea, specifically Taiwanese tea and had allotted ~$75 to spend on Tea for Taiwan. What teas would you include in that order? Any specific advice you would give this friend?

I would choose our least expensive tea – the Four Seasons oolong tea, along with one of the high end teas like Wu Ling or Hua Gang. Then I would add a mid range Alishan tea like Shi Zuo. 75 grams of each would cost about $65 USD. I would suggest starting with the Four Seasons to get used to the general idea of good oolong and how it changes as the leaves are re-brewed, and how water temperature and brewing times can affect the taste. After getting used to the Four Seasons, it would be very informative to do a side-by-side taste comparison with all three teas, all brewed at the same time, sipping one after the other.

Taste comparisons can also be done between the various brews of just one type of tea. The second brew is considered to be the best, but it’s very interesting to see how the taste profile evolves with each subsequent brew.

When is the ideal time to order Taiwanese tea? What about drinking it? Alot of vendors hype up the spring and winter harvests. Is there merit behind this or is this merely a marketing ploy?

Winter and spring are considered the best harvests for oolong tea because of the cool and moist  growing conditions during these seasons. The slower the tea grows the more flavorful it is (summer harvest is not good for this reason). Winter tea grows more slowly than spring tea (Editor’s Note: This is also why slower-growing cultivars are generally more premium teas, i.e. Chin-hsin, Tieguanyin), and because of this winter oolong tea is often called the best crop of the year. But spring tea has an undeniable freshness which also gives it a high stature in the tea world. So the “best crop” is entirely subjective. Some say winter and some say spring. We always stock the current season’s tea, either winter or spring, so anytime is a good time to order our tea. We usually have all the winter teas in stock by late November, and the spring teas in stock by May.

Tea from Taiwan Sample Packs

Tea from Taiwan Sample Packs. Source: Tea from Taiwan

TEA FROM TAIWAN’S MENU (11/2013)

Tea Key Cultivar Elevation (m) $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz
Baozhong Baozhong Chin-hsin 600 $11.00 2.65 $4.15
Rui Feng Jin Xuan Jin Xuan Jin Xuan 1200 $12.00 2.65 $4.53
Tai Xing Jin Xuan Jin Xuan Jin Xuan 1000 $12.00 2.65 $4.53
Zhu Shan Jin Xuan Jin Xuan (Flavored) Jin Xuan 600 $12.00 2.65 $4.53
Four Seasons Alishan Si-ji Si-ji 1200 $13.00 2.65 $4.91
Gaba Gaba Cui Yu 1200 $26.00 5.3 $4.91
Tsuei Luan Lishan Chin-hsin 2000 $19.00 2.65 $7.17
Shi Zuo Alishan Cui Yu Cui Yu 1300 $21.00 2.65 $7.92
Zhong Shu Hu Alishan Cui Yu Cui Yu 1400 $22.00 2.65 $8.30
Dong Ding Ming Xiang Dong Ding Chin-hsin 850 $24.00 2.65 $9.06
Aged 1990 Oolong Wang Tan Pei Chin-hsin 850 $24.00 2.65 $9.06
Shan Li Xi Shan Li Xi Chin-hsin 1900 $25.00 2.65 $9.43
Bai Hao Oriental Beauty Chin-hsin Da Pa 700 $27.00 2.65 $10.19
Wu Ling Lishan Chin-hsin 2000 $29.00 2.65 $10.94
Long Feng Xia Premium Shan Li Xi Chin-hsin 1800 $31.00 2.65 $11.70
Hua Gang Lishan Chin-hsin 2400 $31.00 2.65 $11.70
Da Yu Ling Da Yu Ling Chin-hsin 2650 $46.00 2.65 $17.36

Editor’s Note: Recommended teas for newcomers were bolded.
Editor’s Note #2: Pay attention to cultivars. Chin-hsin is generally the most sought after cultivar for most Taiwanese high-mountain teas (this does not include Oriental Beauty).

Tea Art, Tea from Taiwan

Tea Art. Source: Tea from Taiwan

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>