Beishan Wu Yi (北山武夷红茶) is an unusual tea from Nantou County of central Taiwan. It makes for an interesting cup that is complex yet refreshing, achieving both qualities of fine Taiwanese black teas and Wu Yi Shan oolongs. It is grown at a high altitude garden on Beishan at around 1,100 meters and was picked in April 2017.
This Beishan Wu Yi is carefully crafted by a skilled tea farmer and then processed by a tea master from plants that are descendants of a Wu Yi cultivar (referred to as Wu Yi Zhong, 武夷種). This cultivar was brought to Taiwan over 100 years ago from Wu Yi Shan where it is used for producing both oolong and black teas. With the Japanese rule over Taiwan, the tea landscape was much altered and a lot of the traditional cultivars that were brought from China were lost or simply replaced. Interestingly, the Japanese sought to develop a black tea industry in Taiwan in order to rival the British black tea industry! The reinvigorating of the Taiwanese tea industry in the last century also meant that new cultivars were developed locally that have supplanted some of the older varieties. So it is very rare to see a cultivar such as this being used in Taiwanese tea production. While the cultivar originated from Wu Yi Shan, of course it has since undergone natural changes that make it unique and different in its own right. However you cannot escape noticing some similarities to traditional Wu Yi Rock teas, such as the distinctive mineral aspect of this tea.
The tea garden that this Beishan Wu Yi is grown at is at high altitude on Beishan in Nantou County. It is a lovely setting, a secluded eastern slope that is a perfect location for a tea garden. It is quite rare to see such an unusual cultivar being grown at this altitude when the garden could quite easily switch to the more manageable, easy to grow, hardy and profitable modern cultivars. However the Zhubin family feel very passionate about this type of tea as it both represents Taiwanese tea heritage but also looks to the future. Their garden utilises organic methods, and while still not certified organic, they are aiming to achieve full certification in the next few years.
The aromatic leaves of this Beishan Wu Yi black tea are rather long, thin and wiry in appearance. The liquor produced is a dark red colour with a lovely fruity aroma. The taste is light yet complex. The heritage of the cultivar results in a profile that is rather mineral. Still there are unmistakably Taiwanese black tea characteristics present, much like in our Yuchi Red Jade and Yuchi Wild Shan Cha, although they are not as prominent. The stony mineral notes are nicely balanced by the more sweet and fruity honey and malt flavours. Overall it is a lighter kind of black tea, yet it still presents quite a complex flavour that should be savoured over multiple infusions.
This tea is best brewed with water at 90°C for 3-4 minutes and the leaves can be brewed around 3 times.