11 February 2011

Processing Shan Lin Xi

Several of Taiwan’s oolongs are world-famous.  Dong Ding, Bao Zhong, Oriental Beauty and high mountain oolongs are just a few of the well-known ones.  Each type of tea has variations in how it’s processed and produced. 

Shan Lin Xi is a type of high mountain tea produced in central Taiwan’s Nantou county.  You can see it from Dong Ding mountain and one can get there in less than an hour by car.  It is more accessible than Da Yu Ling and possibly more scenic than Li Shan.  What makes Shan Lin Xi a little different is that modern-day production of it relies more heavily on humidity and temperature control…via air conditioning.  I’m not familiar enough with the entirety of the process to describe it here, but I’ve seen giant warehouses being used in the withering and oxidation process.  Air conditioner-assisted tea production also occurs with some other teas, such as some Bao Zhong and Ali Shan oolongs, but it’s more widespread with Shan Lin Xi production than I know it to be with any other type of tea.  I have never, for example, heard of A/C being used for Dong Ding or Muzha Tieguanyin.

I visited a Shan Lin Xi farmer/producer in that region during the off-season last year and she told me that there is a difference in taste between low-tech and high-tech production of the tea.  She believes the A/C-assisted variant produces a more consistent, quality product.  She did admit, though, that a side-effect of using A/C may be a flavor note that is unique to Shan Lin Xi tea that has undergone this type of processing.  People have gotten used to that unique note, though, so they have come to expect it and identify it with this tea.  That made me think of Diet Coke, doesn’t taste the same as “Real” Coke, but a lot of people like that unique taste anyway.

This season’s high mountain tea has been surprisingly good.  After 2 winter seasons of lackluster ones, it was pleasant to try several good high mountain oolongs from several stores.  Nice.

Drink good tea and enrich your life. 

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