History of Taiwanese Tea

Taiwan Tea History

Wild tea trees were found in Taiwan more than three hundred years ago. There are 12 indigenous species of the Camellia genus in Taiwan, but only one of them, which is called Camellia formosensis, is suitable for preparing a beverage, while others are only used for making oil or being planted in gardens.

Taiwan became known to the west as “Formosa” during Dutch period. The name “Formosa” was said to be dated back to 1542 when Portuguese mariners “discovered” this island and noted it on their maps as Ilha Formosa ("beautiful island").

The earliest literature mentioning tea trees in Taiwan dated back to 1645 in manuscripts of journals, called De Dagregisters van het Kasteel Zeelandia by Dutch East India Company. These manuscripts were written as requested by the Dutch rulers during the period of 1624 -1662 when Taiwan was a colony of the Dutch.

From the Dutch colony period to early Qing dynasty, the tea leaves from wild tea trees were picked and consumed by the locals as daily beverage, but had never been developed to be a commercial crop. It was until Jiaqing period (1796-1820) of Qing dynasty that tea trees from Wuyi mountain were introduced and planted in large scale by Kechao to Yukeng, now as Ruifang town, Taipei.

In the year of 1855 (Xianfeng period of Qing dynasty), a scholar named Lin Fengchi [林风池] from Lugu, Taiwan wanted to go to the capital of Fujian for taking an exam (Taiwan used to be territory of Fujian province, China from 1684 to 1895), but could not make it due to lack of funds. One of his clan relatives supported him with money and he eventually had a good result in the exam. In order to express his gratitude to his clan relative, he introduced the renowned Qingxin oolong tea [青心乌龙] from Wuyi mountain to be planted in Dong Ding area in Taiwan. This was considered to be the origin of Dongding oolong tea.

Floral High Mountain Dong Ding Taiwan Oolong Tea

In the year of 1865 British business man John Dodd came to Taiwan and set up a tea factory to produce oolong tea. In 1869, oolong tea was shipped directly from Danshui, Taiwan to New York for the first time. Danshui was one of the ports, which were forced to be opened by the British after the first opium war. The concept of Taiwanese tea began to get reputation in the western world.

From 1875 to 1908, Zhang brothers [张乃妙&张乃乾] brought Tieguanyin from Anxi, Fujian to Muzha Zhanghu mountain (Nanshan) in Taiwan. This was considered to be the origin of Muzha Tieguanyin.

Roasted Muzha Tieguanyin Iron Buddha Taiwan Oolong Tea

In the year of 1881, tea business man Wu Fuyuan from Quanzhou, Fujian set up “Long Yuan Hao” in Taipei to manufacture and sell Baozhong tea back to mainland China. This is the first production of Baozhong tea in Taiwan. In the year of 1885, Wang Shuijin and Wei Jingshi [王水锦&魏静时] from Anxi, Fujian came to Nangang [南港旧庄山坡地], Taibei to plant Baozhong tea and educate local people on tea planting and producing skills. This is the origin of Nangang Baozhong tea. Wang and Wei did a great contribution to the development of Taiwanese Baozhong tea.

Premium Baozhong Floral Taiwan Oolong Tea

During Japanese Taiwan period (1895–1945), tea plantation and production development, especially black tea, was highly encouraged by the ruler. In the year of 1926, Japanese brought in Assam tea tree from India to produce Assam black tea in Yuchi, Nantou [南投鱼池]. Ruby Red No. 18 was cultivated from hybreed of Camelia tea and Myanmar's large-leaf tea plants.

Premium Ruby Red (No. 18) Sun Moon Lake Taiwan Red Tea


“Oriental beauty”, also known as Baihao oolong, was formerly called Pengfeng tea [椪风茶]. There is little literature regarding the origin of Oriental beauty. It is said that in the early of the 20th century, a Hakka tea farmer one day found that his tea trees experienced infestation with some small green bugs (later known as Jacobiasca formosana, the tea jassid) and therefore some tea leaves turned yellow and even brown. Instead of destroying his tea crops, he picked the tea leaves and processed them as oolong tea. It turned out that the tea was quite good, and had fragrance of fruit and honey. It was later promoted with the name of “Oriental beauty”. Studies showed that after the tea tree is bitten and sucked by the tea jassid, the catechin and caffeine content in the tea leaves will increase, and a series of jasmonic acid-based aroma substances will be released. As a result, the tea liquor contains fruity and honey-like taste.

In 1965, Taiwan brought in Japanese green tea making technology. Green tea export was once a major part in tea export business (in 1973, the green tea export took up 51% of total tea export volume by weight).

In 1980, Taiwanese government abolished a regulation about tea production in order to encourage tea farmers to produce and sell tea on their own, and protect tea farmers from being ripped off by the tea traders. As a result, black and green tea export reduced dramatically whilst domestic sales of oolong tea increased.

Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published