What Should It Taste Like: Ali Shan

by Jason Walker on September 28, 2013

in how to, Member Content, origin

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Ali Shan Flavor Wheel

Part of a series: What Should It Taste Like?

It is tempting to pile all the Taiwan high mountain oolongs into the same heap. After all, there can be strong similarities across them. These higher elevation mean some of the highest tea gardens in the world- even higher than Darjeeling estates.

But lumping them together would be to ignore the variety that is created. Mountain location can be an important issue. As tea bushes respond to longer days in the Spring, they shoot out new leaves. New leaves marks the time to pluck. If the mountain is too northerly, leaves are sprouting before the warmer, dryer air has arrived. And so tea processors may have leaves to process, but terrible weather withering and drying a final product. Ali Shan, being further south than Li Shan, has the advantage of getting that warmer, dryer air in time for optimal growth and processing conditions.

Ali Shan wulongs are generally known for:

  • Brothy textures
  • Tastes/aromas akin to hyacinth, lilac, and laurel. Roasting or firing during processing can add notes of graham cracker or lightly toasted bread.
  • An aftertaste reminiscent of toast with honey
  • More pronounced, and more balanced flavors and textures as the liquor cools a little

A few tea references have also sought to capture the ali shan wulong flavor profile:

The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea used “gardenia,” “lilac,” “crystalized sugar,” “citrus,” “key lime pie,” “creamy,” and “butteriness.”

The Tea Drinkers Handbook, grouped several Taiwan high mountain oolongs together (including ali shan), and employed words like “white flowers,” “unctuous,” “fennel” “fresh cut herbs,” “new-mown hay,” “hyacinth,” and “buttery vanilla.”

Tea: History,Terrior, Varieties¬†noted characteristics of “pastry,” “coconut,” “exotic fruit,” “vanilla,” and “flower nectar.”

Just as important as the flavor and aroma characteristics are notes about intensity of flavors and textures, and duration of aftertaste.

The diagrams may help you visualize ali shan characteristics along various spectra. Note that I use the spectra universally across teas, so these show general place in relation to most other teas, whether they be green, wulong, etc.

Ali Shan Flavor Wheel2

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Want to see a tea reviewed? Contact me: jason@walkerteareview.com

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