Nantou Amber: A Tea Tradition Reborn
Taiwan is a melting pot.
In addition to the island's indigenous population, it has become an adopted home for people and traditions from all over mainland China, and it has been influenced by periods of Portuguese, Dutch, and Japanese colonization. The result is a country of many cultures, and a population that has experienced great change while preserving its essential character.
It's no surprise, then, that Taiwan's tea community is rife with experimentation and innovation. Dozens of new styles of tea have been created here, and the government's Tea Research and Extension Station has developed new cultivars and techniques that have made Taiwan's multifaceted oolongs the envy of the tea world.
Nantou Amber is an oolong tea that could only come from Taiwan, but its story begins in Qing Dynasty China, when farmers from Fujian took to the seas in search of greener horizons. Fujian is a region rich in tea cultivation, including the famed Wuyi cliffs. Naturally, farmers brought their local seeds with them, and planted some in their new island home. In contemporary times, with the proliferation of newer cultivars—easier to grow and producing higher yields—relatively few Taiwanese oolongs are made from this heritage stock.
Wuyi cultivars are suited to more intense, multiple periods of roasting than the lighter, greener styles that have come to dominate the oolong market in Taiwan and China. Traditional handmade Wuyi teas made from these cultivars, like Drunken Begonia and Tieluohan, rank among the world's most expensive. They require exceptional skill to grow, process, and roast, and domestic Chinese demand for these teas is as high as the mountains themselves.
Nantou Amber, which is crafted from old Wuyi stock in Ming Jian township in the northern part of the country, carries this strong oxidation and roast into the future. Yet it looks nothing like the twisted leaves of classic Wuyi teas. Instead, it follows the modern Taiwanese method of tight ball rolling and the inclusion of some stem, as well as an indelible tropical-fruit note characteristic of many Taiwanese oolongs. As an experimental production from a region well outside Wuyi, processed with efficient modern techniques, Nantou Amber also comes at a much more accessible price.
Over many steepings, aromas of brown sugar, peanut shell, and grapefruit fill the room. It's just the thing to steep in a Taiwanese clay teapot, though we also enjoy it casually brewed in a chawan or thermos. The tea never turns bitter; its rich, smooth character simply deepens over time.
If you enjoy our Nantou Four Seasons, try this tea for a darker sweetness—think floral-infused buckwheat honey drizzled over grilled pineapple. It represents the best of Taiwan's past blending with its future.