What is High Mountain Oolong?
High Mountain Oolong (Gao Shan) is a premium variety of Formosa oolong, native to eastern Taiwan. Cultivated in mountain tea plantations, some as high as 8000 feet above sea level, High Mountain Oolongs grow in cool, cloudy, misty conditions. Just like fine wine estates, every fine Taiwanese tea plantation has its own microclimate – leading to its own unique yield of tea. The limited quantities in which they are produced, coupled with their slow growth rate, give High Mountain Oolongs their steep price tags.
What kind of tea is High Mountain Oolong?
High Mountain Oolong is a lightly oxidized and highly aromatic tea. It has a rich mix of vegetal and floral notes – a direct result of its slow growth in the misty mountain tea plantations of eastern Taiwan. Typically harvested in the spring, High Mountain Oolong leaves are picked as a composite of one bud and two or three leaves. Curled up into small balls when dry, the tea unfurls as soft, jade green leaves once brewed.
High Mountain Oolong makes for a brisk, fragrant sip, with a characteristic sweet aftertaste. It lies on the “greener side” of the oolong spectrum, on account of its light oxidation level. Predominantly “floral” at first, it develops “buttery” notes by the second or third steeping, finally settling into an “earthy” taste by the seventh or eighth iteration. Generally considered “light and refreshing”, High Mountain Oolong is a popular and “enjoyable everyday tea”. Those who prefer stronger, toasty aromas and notes in their tea, can find it a little too “mild and basic”, though.
Genuine High Mountain Oolongs last through multiple infusions (7-8 of them), gradually changing in flavor from floral, to buttery, to earthy. Steeping it for too long can bring in an element of astringency. You can make the most of the delicate flavor of the tea by limiting the amount you steep to about a gram per 50ml of water. Boiling water works better for the first infusion, though you can use slightly cooler water for the subsequent infusions, to keep any bitterness at bay.
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