Shan Lin Xi ‘Earl Grey’ Hong Cha (杉林溪佛手柑紅茶) is a bergamot scented black tea grown at an altitude of 1,200-1,300 metres at Shan Lin Xi in Nantou County of Taiwan. The tea is made from the leaves of the Qing Xin ‘Green Heart’ (青心) cultivar plants. The tea then undergoes scenting with both addition of Fo Shou Gan ‘Buddha’s hand’ citron (佛手柑) that is grown in Yuchi Township and natural bergamot flavour from France. The resulting liquor has a smooth profile with a fine citrus flavour that compliments the delicate high mountain black tea. It was picked in July 2020 and scented by our tea master in October 2020.
Shan Lin Xi (杉林溪) is an exceptional terroir located high in the mountains of Nantou Province that is renowned for producing some of the best tea in Taiwan. The gardens range in altitude between approximately 1,000 and 2,000 metres. The picturesque mountainous landscape is also home to Shanlinxi Forest Recreation Area, a popular destination for nature hiking that is known for its giant forest trees and waterfalls. Shan Lin Xi can be literally translated as Pine Forest Stream from Chinese. However it is also commonly known as Sun Link Sea, an English phonetic approximation of the Chinese Shan Lin Xi.
The high mountain nature of this Taiwanese ‘Earl Grey’ tea already introduces a very delicate and light profile. Furthermore, this tea utilises a Qing Xin (青心) cultivar that is favoured for light floral oolongs. It is not common to find a black tea made from this cultivar as most black teas produced in Taiwan are crafted from cultivars specifically developed and favoured for black tea production.
Hence the trademark Taiwanese black tea taste that features a savoury medicinal edge and is evident in teas like our Yuchi Assamica and Yuchi Red Jade is not presented here. Instead the Qing Xin cultivar translates to a much lighter and more delicate flavour, perfect for pairing with bergamot to create a fine, high grade version of Earl Grey.
Our Shan Lin Xi ‘Earl Grey’ Hong Cha undergoes dual scenting. First the tea master introduces pieces of dried citrus that is know as Buddha’s hand citron or fingered citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis). This citrus is of similar profile to bergamot (Citrus bergamia) and the Chinese name Fo Shou Gan (佛手柑) is often used to describe the bergamot flavour. Named after the appearance of the fruits that resemble the hand of the Buddha, it is a popular choice in many Asian countries for perfuming and various flavouring purposes. The citrus used is grown locally in Yuchi Township on the shores of Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County. After the addition of dried fruit pieces, the tea also undergoes light scenting with natural bergamot flavour from France.
This Taiwanese ‘Earl Grey’ tea exhibits a delicate profile with a fine interplay between the light black tea base and the careful scenting by the tea master. Neat tippy leaves are well blended with Buddha’s hand citron to produce a smooth liquor with a light bergamot citrus aroma. Everything is well-balanced, with both the black tea and the citrus flavours complimenting each other rather than competing for attention. The initial notes on the flavour profile are those of citrus and bergamot. The bergamot tends to stay at the very top, being vapourific and mostly coming through on the aromatics. These fade to give way to the lightly savoury black tea base that has more fruity and malty notes. The aftertaste is clean, with a tangy warming character with just a hint of tannins. This is a fantastic take on a classic Earl Grey that delivers a familiar and popular flavour in an exquisite fashion.
It is best to brew this Taiwanese Earl Grey tea for 3-4 minutes in 90°C temperature, reusing the leaves multiple times. It also works very well for gong fu brewing.