Tea Classics: Li Shan Oolong

by Jason on July 20, 2009

in Member Content

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Li Shan OolongPart III of X in a series on classic teas you need to taste

Origin: Li Mountain, Taiwan

Dry leaves:

  • Blue-green and green color
  • 2-3 leaves connected by a stem and balled together
  • Light-to-medium oxidization
  • Sweet wood aromas with floral scents.

Wet leaves:

  • Leaves open to reveal 2-3 leaves connected to a stem
  • Bean fragrances


  • Yellow-to-gold color
  • Cedar, English laurel, and pear aromas
  • Light-to-medium astringency
  • Light brothy texture

Confusion could be created by the names and initial appearance of Taichung county’s Li Shan (i.e. “Pear Mountian”) and Chiayi county’s A Li Shan.

Li Shan is a “high mountain” oolong, which are characterized as those oolongs grown at an elevation of over 1,000 meters above sea level. Li Shan plantations exist at elevavations of up to 2600 meters. As a result, you are able to get Li Shan oolongs grown at higher elevations than Darjeeling teas, which can range from 750 to 2000 meters above sea level.

Like many oolongs, the rolling process contributes heavily to the finished product we enjoy. Rolling often involves placing leaves in the center of a large piece of canvas. The corners are brought together, and then the cloth is twisted until the leaves are tightly compacted into a bulb shape. This bulb of leaves gets pressed on its sides to release the juices and create the tiny paper-wad shape of the rolled leaves. In (usually) less than an hour, the bulb is opened, the leaves allowed to dry and separate to avoid becoming a giant lump of tea. This process can be repeated up to 30 times, depending on weather conditions and other factors in oxidation.

Compare teas with others on the Scoresheet.
Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings.
Want to see a tea reviewed? Contact me: jason@walkerteareview.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

William Hacker January 27, 2011 at 12:23

Hello, Jason,

Do you know anything about Akira Hojo? He sells some VERY expensive teas from his webite, http://www.hojotea.com/indexe.html His price list is here: http://www.hojotea.com/img/tealineup.pdf (priced in Japanese yen, which are about 82.5 to the dollar).

I’m just wondering if – for example – a li shan oolong that sells for (if you do the conversions) about $68 for two ounces is noticeably better than a li shan that sells for $25 for the same quantity. Have you ever tried any of these high-end teas? Is there a point of diminishing returns?

What is your own favorite li shan oolong, price not being an object?

One other question:

Several of my oolong-drinking friends from Taiwan tell me that I must do a preliminary steeping of a few seconds – and then discard that water – before actually brewing the tea. Yet in your video reviews where you use a guywan, you just pour the hot water in and wait. Is the answer that it doesn’t really matter?



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