Canton Tea Club Week 8: The battle of the shans
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Ali Shan and Li Shan: Elevate your tea experience
Good quality Taiwanese high mountain oolongs are among the grand crus of fine tea and Ali Shan and Li Shan are some of the best examples. There is something particularly ethereal and satisfying about the range of flavours they produce: butter, nuts, citrus, and sweet floral notes emerge with each infusion. The key to their qualities is in the dramatic landscape of the mountains they're grown in; the climate is damp and cold with fluctuating temperatures, the soil dark and rich. It was formerly used for fruit orchards.
Ali Shan (Ali Mountain) in central Taiwan is famous for its Japanese-built narrow-gauge railway that winds through the mountains and tea fields. The cool, damp mountain air and rich dark soil offer perfect conditions for growing top class oolong. Further to the south, Li Shan (Pear Mountain) is higher – up to 2,600m, perhaps the highest tea growing area in the world. The tea from here is generally regarded as superior although some prefer the Ali Shan’s sweeter character.
Both tea areas are relatively new – only producing oolongs since the 1980′s – but the farmers use ancient techniques to create these high-grade teas. They’re so well made that you really can taste the fabulous terroir. Misty mornings, the heat of the sun, high mountains; it’s all here – in a cup.
Which do you prefer?