There are department store type tea vendors and those who are more of a boutique, specializing in a limited range, type, or style of tea. These tea vendors who specialize are able to really focus on a particular niche market. For you, the devoted tea drinker, finding the right specialist tea vendor can assure you get the best there is of the type of tea you want.
A good example is a tea vendor specializing in Taiwanese oolongs. You might not think there’s that much to teas from this island nation, but a perusal of the product line tells another story.
They have an oolong from the A Li Shan region, a major tourist destination as well as famous for its teas. Tea growing began in Taiwan in the early 1800s but not in the A Li Shan region until the 1920s. They first planted in lower altitudes which were more accessible but moved up to higher altitudes later on. Until the 1970s and 80s, the tea was processed as black tea but was shifted to oolong and is now mostly consumed locally. This vendor, however, makes this tea available to the U.S. market.
Another tea that this specialized tea vendor makes available to you is Ching Shin (or Chin-shin, meaning green-centered) Oolong, a top quality tea from Da Yu Ling, in one of the highest elevation (7,545 feet) tea farming areas of Central Taiwan. It’s a much sought after high mountain tea with a balanced and bright flavor that finishes nicely on the back of the tongue. Ching Shin is the most widely cultivated oolong cultivar in Taiwan with more than 50% of tea plantations in Taiwan growing it as their major cultivar. It is also used to produce excellent quality BaoZhong and Dong-Ding oolong or High Mountain oolong, which this vendor also carries.
Tie Guan Yin style from Mu Zha in Northern Taiwan is another tea they carry. In fact, some say this is the only genuine version of that type of oolong and that oolongs, contrary to being a way that tea is processed, is actually a series of cultivars. Some common ones: Si-Ji (four seasons), Jade, Jinxuan, Soft-stem, and Ching Shin mentioned above.
Their lineup also includes some flavored oolongs using fruits such as Kyoho grape, strawberry, peach, passion fruit; and flowers such as lavender and osmanthus, lychee; and mint.
Only a tea vendor who specializes can help you really explore a particular type of tea. So, if you want to take that plunge into learning all you can about a particular type of tea, seek and find that specialist tea vendor. Whether it’s Japanese teas, Ceylon, Darjeeling, or even those from the various tea producing provinces of China, let that vendor be your guide. Ready, set, explore!
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