At Te, our teas are sourced from all over Taiwan. We work directly with tea producers, most of them have been teamakers for generations.
We select teas by asking ourselves three questions.Does the tea represent the island of Taiwan, either the land, the people, or its heritage?
What we find so interesting about Taiwanese teas is how they are shaped by its people. A beautiful batch of tea comes from a wonderful marriage between the bounty of the land and the skillset of the tea maker. For example, historical events like the Japanese occupation had a major impact on Taiwanese culture and technological advancement, including tea making. Our Iconic Taiwanese Teas set consists of six teas that each represent a part of Taiwanese heritage, while some of our other teas showcase the innovation of a younger generation of tea makers.
Second, do the teas come from tea makers who care for their work with genuine integrity and honesty?
Every year we spend a month getting to know our producers in Taiwan. We visit their land, their processing facilities, and oftentimes their homes. The first step of getting to know a tea is getting to know its maker. We believe teas will taste like the character of their origin. We don’t choose teas to our own taste by requesting production modifications. We want you to taste the teas that represent its people and origin. Plus, the tea makers are the ones surveying their tea plants all year long and touching the tea leaves daily; they know the best way to process that year’s harvest.
Lastly, and most importantly, does the tea taste good?
Deliciousness is a subjective notion, though we believe there is consensus amongst our palates.
We look for brightness and clarity in the color of the infusion and we want consistent shades and size for the tea leaves.
We seek clarity in its layered fragrances with a lasting aroma in the nose.
We ask for a balanced structure, silkiness in its drinkability, and a long finish.
Using these basic guidelines, we select teas with a wide range of aroma and profiles from grassy to malty, from floral to fruity, and from gentle to robust. We believe every tea has a personality that suits a particular mood and we will help navigate you to yours.
Difference between Oxidation and Roast
Oxidation is the natural browning of a plant in its process of decay (think an avocado or apple browning when cut in half). Tea also oxidizes after the leaves are harvested from the stems and exposed to air. Oxidation level is one of the key processing methods that defines the flavor and aroma of tea. Green and black teas showcase bookends of the oxidation process. Green tea is not oxidized, close to the raw form of tea, and black tea is fully oxidized, or the most decayed version of tea. Oolong teas by definition are partially oxidized. Tea makers utilize high heat in order to halt the enzymatic reaction and control the level of oxidation. Oolong tea oxidation levels can range from 8% to 85%, providing a large canvas for flavor variations and complexities. Lightly oxidized oolongs tend to be similar to green tea: more vegetal and lighter in body with hints of white flowers. More heavily oxidized oolongs tend to carry richer floral notes with maltier aromas similar to black teas.
Roasting is also referred to as firing or baking. This process creates a Maillard reaction, like roasting peaches or apples in the oven, producing honeyed stone fruit and nutty aromas. Roasting ocurs at the end of the tea processing, where processed tea leaves are roasted via charcoal in a bamboo barrel or via an electric oven. There are different roasting levels, from toasty to smoky, depending on the styles of tea being made. Roasting also reduces caffeine levels in tea. In high temperature roasting, caffeine molecules are removed from the tea leaves along with water. Heavily roasted tea typically makes a great evening tea as it is less stimulating.
How long do tea last?
Tea doesn’t really go “bad” so long as it is properly stored away from heat, light, air, and heavily fragranced product, though the flavors do change over time.
Generally, we recommend consuming green tea and lightly oxidized oolong quickly. Lightly oxidized teas are made to showcase the grassiness and freshness of the tea plant, which are the first attributes lost when the tea she’s. Roasted and more highly-oxidized tea are less time sensitive and can actually benefit from a year of aging as the aroma becomes more settled and structured.
For greener styles of tea, we work very diligently with our suppliers in packing our 2 oz packaged tea at the origin. Many are vacuum packed to lengthen its shelf life to about 2 years. Packaging at origin to our specific size also helps to reduce repacking, meaning less exposure to air and therefore “aging”.