Tea was brought to the island of Taiwan during the mid 1600's from mainland China. The majority of the original trees came from Fujian Province, which is the bright birthplace of all Oolong, as well as many other famous teas. The tea that the early settlers brought thrived in Taiwan, especially in the mountains. The soil is rich in volcanic minerals. The mists from the sea fill the valleys and highlands with the moisture that tea loves. The humidity, temperature, rainfall, mists and clouds as well as the gravelly soil are all ideal for tea growth. The unique terroir of Taiwan fostered the growth of new varietals and farmers created new hybrids, researching the differences in search of wonderful new teas. The legacy to follow is an incredibly vast array of Taiwan Oolong Teas. Living Tea seeks out a small arrangement of "seasonal bests."
Taiwanese oolong production follows the general pattern that all oolong does, with variations in the degree of oxidation or roast. This variation makes oolong the most varied genre of tea, spanning a huge spectrum of oxidation from light, green oolong to the heavily oxidized Eastern Beauty. Oolong is picked and then withered, alternating outdoors and indoors. As it is withered, it goes through the most characteristic step of oolong tea: shaking. The shaking gently bruises the leaves, furthering the oxidation process and causing cellular changes. The indoor withering occurs on large, circular bamboo trays that are skillfully tossed by the farmers. The withering furthers the oxidation and allows moisture to depart the leaves so that they are limp and can be manipulated (they would break if rolled right after plucking.) The best tea producers can shake the leaves in such a way that only the edges bruise, leaving a slight redness around the edges. After withering and shaking, the tea is fried in a dry wok to kill the green enzyme that makes it bitter (sa chin/ kill-green) and arrest oxidation. Next, the tea is rolled or twisted to produce striped or balled oolong respectively. Finally, the tea is roasted dry to seal in the freshness, with some oolong undergoing a second roasting to deepen the aroma and flavor.