This stunning black tea is produced in limited quantities in one of the most amazing tea-production zones on earth. This particular lot is now just over one year old, and is beginning to really show its complex flavor notes. This tea is deliciously complex, and tea enthusiasts who prefer the rich, non-astringent style of China black tea need to experience this tea. We have been able to source this delicious tea fairly readily the last few years during its current harvest cycle, but we are not always able to procure enough to be able to offer it as it enters its prime (the 2-5 year period following harvest). The scarcity of leaf in a normal year means that there is rarely ‘Rested’ or ‘Aged’ tea to be found ‘on demand’. But as with many things in life, sometimes lightning strikes. And in this instance…thank goodness!
So we are very excited this year to be able to offer this perfectly-rested 2020 Alishan Hand-Plucked Black tea to you, alongside our new-harvest 2021 leaf, which is great, but which will also become better with some age. Purchase this selection and it will save you a year of waiting, so that is a nice option!
The same tea farmer makes our Alishan gao shan oolong, our Jin Xuan high mountain oolong, and Alishan black tea. Manufacturing fully-oxidized black tea is not common practice in Taiwan; however, there is an historic tradition of black tea manufacture on the island (linked to the Japanese occupation). This tea-making family has a passion for crafting fine tea, and their skills as tea makers (and the blessed location of their tea garden) make it an enjoyable task for them to turn a portion of their leaf each season into this fine black tea.
When Mary Lou visited this tea farm in November many years ago, she talked with the resident tea makers about winter oolong (and tasted those first) but then she moved on to the subject of Alishan black tea. We had heard the urban legends about there being some Alishan black tea, more than was ever potentially available in the west, but had rarely encountered it in the US or on our travels to other parts of East Asia. So she was most anxious to find out if indeed there was a larger quantity of it from which to draw.
Indeed, the rumors proved true and in a few minutes Mary Lou was tasting a flight of their Taiwan black teas. You can see from the photos that Alishan black tea is a lovely, long and slender, strip-style tea ( a very different appearance from our semiball-rolled Tung Ting black tea ) which our tea maker accomplishes by plucking just the long, tasty buds. He manufactures his Alishan black in the summer, when the tea bushes are healthy and thriving but the heat of the summer weather is not good for oolong manufacture. This is good planning and a perfect use of large, healthy, fresh tea buds.
Look at how lovely these buds are – this fine plucking has high altitude clarity and purity of flavor (as opposed to the malty, concentrated flavors found in tea grown in a valley in hot, tropical locations). Tea bushes face survival challenges in many different types of weather conditions and elevation levels. High altitude tea gardens develop unique flavors and complexity in the cup from slow maturation in cool, misty weather.
Our Alishan black tea has a fruity-ness that is underscored with a pleasant peaty, woody-ness that keeps the fruit in check, especially with a harvest such as this that is now a bit ‘rested’. The flavor and aroma is not the expected Alishan floral but instead something minerally, earthy and dry. Scotch drinkers will love this tea, as the suggestion of flavors runs from artichoke to zucchini to cherry pips, (but not the fresh fruit anymore) while maintaining a central core taste of full-bodied smoothness.
Mary Lou was told that as good as the tea was then, it would be better after resting one year – and even better after two years. We are big fans of aged and rested black teas, so are enthusiastic that this tea is already at that one year mark, and so now some could be put aside even longer to enjoy a year or more from now. Or it can be enjoyed and drunk up with this relatively short resting.