Making tea is an ancient practice with roots in China going back thousands of years. Like many agricultural processes, tea has been industrialized resulting in a much lower quality product. Remarkably there are still those who are building on the rich tradition of tea growing and processing to make quality teas that offer unique flavors and qualities.
Tea Growing Regions
Ideally tea grows in subtropical mountainous areas with good soil drainage and an abundance of moist fog. As with premium wine, the growing location is an important factor in the quality of the tea. While the tea plant is indigenous to China, quality teas are now grown throughout Asia:
China produces green, oolong, and pu'er teas, as well as black tea which they call red tea.
Japan grows almost exclusively green tea, most of which they consume domestically.
Taiwan is known for it's excellent oolong teas, and also grows makes some green and black teas.
India and Sri Lanka produce mostly black tea.
Picking and Processing
Tea is picked several times a year. Each harvest time offers slightly different characteristics to the leaves. Spring leaves harvested in April and May are highly prized, and are essential for making white and green teas. Some oolong teas that rely on the leaf hopper are harvested in the summer. There may be additional harvests in the autumn and winter. There are teas made from individual new leaves, while other teas include the growing tips of the tea plant with a few leaves and some stem.
The fresh leaves are immediately processed and the exact steps and timing depend on the variety of tea being made. The leaves may be sorted, withered, steamed, fermented, cut, rolled, dried, roasted, or aged. How each of these steps is carried out is the art of the tea maker. These makers are often drawing on a knowledge and skill that is generations deep and can't be replicated by a machine or other tea makers.
Zu Chang Teas
The teas we offer are grown in select tea gardens in Taiwan under the direction of Mr. Wang, a 6th generation tea maker. Some of the teas are grown in the high mountains around 7,000 feet which help them to develop delicate flavors, while others are grown in areas known for their regional characteristics. Mr. Wang oversees the final processing for each tea in his facility in northern Taiwan. After processing, some of these teas are nitrogen-packed in tins to ensure their freshness.