The origins of our Taiwanese High Mountain Ali Shan Oolong tea
With a complex floral aroma and sweet, mouth-watering flavour, High Mountain Ali Shan (Alishan Gaoshan wulong, 阿里山高山烏龍) is an outstanding organic Taiwanese oolong and one of the stars of our loose-leaf tea collection.
Grown at 1500m above sea level, our Ali Shan is among the most famous of Taiwan's luxury High Mountain teas. There's much to love about this single-origin oolong, from its bright yellow infusion redolent with a mix of fresh and smoky notes, to its delicate apricot flavour and buttery-smooth mouthfeel. Enjoy its delicate sweetness throughout the day, or an hour or so after food, to aid digestion.
Sourced by Formosan Farms, which specialises in micro-batch Taiwanese teas, High Mountain Ali Shan is made from full, greenish-yellow leaves which are rolled into large balls. The tea owes its name to Taiwan's spectacular Alishan mountains national park, where it's grown. Here, the cool, cloudy conditions ensure the tea bushes grow more slowly, developing thicker leaves that are perfect for the bruising and robust rolling/curling treatment that oolongs typically receive as part of their production process.
This particular high mountain oolong tea is harvested in the fresh spring and frosty winter seasons, with only the most tender leaves selected. Hand-picked and dried, our High Mountain Ali Shan is given just a gentle roll, to preserve the full leaf appearance. Formosan Farms' farmer, Mr Shien, grew up on a century-old tea farm and cares for his plants like they're family members. Having become skilled in his craft, learning techniques passed down through the generations, Mr Shien has integrated his own beliefs into the tea-growing tradition: running his farm to organic principles, focusing on sustainability – and playing soothing classical music to his trees. Mr Chien believes exposure to music helps his tea bushes flourish and improves quality and taste – so much so, in fact, that he's in the process of building an eco-friendly system on his land that will play eight-hour bursts of classical music to his plants!
What is Taiwanese oolong?
Also known as wulong ('black dragon'), oolong is a semi-oxidised tea, which is why it's often referred to as being halfway between a green tea and a black tea. Oolong teas originally hail from the province of Fujian, China, which lies just 315km from the island of Taiwan, across the Taiwan Strait. In the early 19th century, Camellia sinensis seedlings were brought from China to Taiwan, then called Formosa, and by the late 1860s, production and export of Taiwanse tea was underway. Foremost among these teas was what became popular in Britain and the US as Formosan oolong.
Today, Taiwan's oolongs are renowned the world over, accounting for some 90% of total national tea production. Large tracts of Taiwan's spectacular mountainous terrain are given over to tea gardens, with the country's many microclimates and different elevations perfectly suited to oolong's idiosyncratic personality; this, after all, is a tea of a thousand nuanced incarnations. On the whole, however, what differentiates Taiwan's oolongs from many of their Chinese counterparts is their overall lower levels of oxidation (usually in the range of 8-70%) – making for generally lighter, greener styles of tea.
What are the health benefits of oolong?
For centuries, the Chinese have touted the health benefits of oolong tea: as an aid to weight loss, cardiovascular function and improved cognition. And recent studies have shown that drinking a couple of cups of oolong per day may indeed help break down fat while you're sleeping due to the tea's metabolism-boosting capabilities, therefore reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Those capabilities are down to the tea's high levels of polyphenols, the antioxidant-packed plant-based compounds that are also linked to a decrease in cell division in certain cancers, improved bone mineral density and a reduction in certain skin conditions such as eczema. And since our High Mountain Ali Shan tea is organically grown – pesticide-, herbicide- and chemical-free – you can be assured that all you're getting is the goodness of the pure tea leaves.
What is Formosan Farms?
Founded by Dr Yvonne Han, Formosan Farms produces premium, single-origin teas that are organically grown by select family-run tea farms in Taiwan. The sustainably grown teas are 100% pure, with no added chemicals or pesticides, and are supplied to various grades, all of high quality. Each contributing farm has a sustainable ethos that ensures the methods used in cultivation are eco-friendly and place the environment front and centre. The farmers' love for their work is reflected in their teas, and we are very proud to launch our new range of teas with them.
Alternatives to High Mountain Ali Shan
If you love this benchmark oolong, you'll want to try its sister tea, Ali Shan, also from the mountains of Taiwan and which offers a clean, milky-sweet flavour. Looking for an everyday option? You can't go past our Four Seasons Taiwanese tea; earthy-sweet, with a mild, nutty character, it's an easy way to get your oolong fix. For a tea with double health benefits, try our ginseng-infused Chinese Jade, grown and harvested in the mountains of Fujian, China's most famous oolong-producing region. And for the most iconic of oolongs, it has to be another fine Fujian tea: the complex, floral Tie Guan Yin, also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy.
For the full range of The Tea Makers of London oolongs, browse our Tea Shop. Upgrade your brewing game with our range of gaiwans and glassware – perfect for preparing your High Mountain Ali Shan in style. Alternatively, our stunning Rare and Limited Gong Fu tea ceremony set makes a great gift for tea connoisseurs.