Tea in Taiwan is serious business, so much so that they are constantly working on developing new cultivars of Camellia Sinensis (the tea plant) that will yield certain characteristics for both the grower and the imbiber. The results are usually sold with a TTES number on them, for example, “TTES No. 18.” But what is TTES?
Simple. “TTES” means “Taiwan Tea Experiment Station” and is used by tea researchers to designate their successes. They also include an experiment code on many of these teas.
The Taiwan Tea Experiment Station is located near Puxin Train Station in downtown Yangmei. Various kinds of experimental teas are grown in their fields and have led to improvements in tea cultivation. The public is welcome to visit.
Taiwan has a host of tea gardens, each with its own mini-ecosystem. Some of the cultivars are developed for optimal growing in these areas. The balance is between plants that will grow best in that environment versus plants that will steep up the best flavor. If a tea grower is willing to spend extra time tending the tea plants in order to get a special taste to the tea, that will affect which cultivar he grows.
These teas are not always labeled with their TTES number but are listed by name instead. One is Black Jade (Hongyu). It is TTES #18 which is a hybrid of Camellia Sinensis assamica and a native variety (Camellia Sinensis forma formosensis), and steeping up a liquid with notes of cinnamon and mint. Another is Jade Oolong Tea (Cuiyu). It is TTES #13 (experiment code 2029) and is grown mainly in Alishan of Chiayi and Nantou Counties, Taiwan. The leaves are light-fire roasted and steep up a golden-yellow liquid that has a wonderful floral aroma (some say it’s magnolia while others think it’s more like jasmine). A cultivar grown exclusively in Taiwan (also mainly Alishan of Chiayi and Nantou Counties) is Jin-Xuan Oolong Tea, considered to be the new generation of Formosa oolong tea. It’s TTES #12 (experiment code 2027) and has leaves that are wider and bigger than most oolongs.
Some other names to look for:
- Baiwen (TTES #14) — Sweet and lightly scented. Often blended with Osmanthus to impart that sweetness in balance with the sharpness of the tea’s aroma and taste.
- Baihe (TTES #16) — named after the town of Baihe in Tainan County, Taiwan, where they hold an annual lotus festival.
- Bailu (TTES #17) — Created in 1983 by the Taiwan Tea Research Institute, this cultivar is a good one for making Oriental Beauty. The tea steeps up a clear liquid that has an aroma some say is like fine Lychee juice but with a light flavor.
Go on the hunt for more TTES teas and share your findings with us here!
Some Popular Taiwanese Oolong Cultivars
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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