FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $49

Rishi’s tea partners in Taiwan are amazing tea masters in Mingjian Village.  The matriarch is Mrs. Yan Ying Tsao and is a significant supplier for Rishi tea.  Mrs. Yan Ying Tsao has devoted her life to tea but is also a true naturalist in her farming of tea, fruits, herbs, orchids, varieties of turmeric and ginger—you name it, she grows it.  In 2000, Mrs. Yang won the Shennong Farmer God Award, issued by the President of Taiwan to farmers that show exemplary innovation and dedication to their community’s improvement.  Mrs. Tsao’s son, Jui Lung, who is Joshua’s contemporary and good friend, is also heavily involved in this family-run operation.  Jui Lung is a level 5 tea taster, certified by the Zhejiang, Hangzhou Tea Research Institute, and is of the top tasters and specialized tea makers in Taiwan.

The pair run all aspects of their tea business, managing dozens of their own cultivar farms, from a network of extremely talented producers in Taiwan.  For Rishi, they have developed a network devoted to producing our teas.  All of the final baking, packaging, and export work is carried out by this tightly-knit family company from a remote village where so much incredible tea is grown. 

Around the world, Taiwan is well-known as a region that produces highly-specialized teas.  There are distinct denotive differences in the locations where tea is grown in this country.  In Taiwan, tea gardens situated above 1,000 masl are considered to be high mountain growing regions. 

The teas from these lofty elevations are known as Gao Shan Cha, translating as High Mountain Tea. Tea from these elevations is extremely precious, as the gardens only produce twice a year.  A typical quantity from both harvests is less than 1,500 kg.  Every pluck truly counts, and farmers utilize specialized baskets to keep tea fresh during plucking until the leaves are taken to be withered. 

Gardens at high elevations receive short durations of morning sunshine and are mostly shrouded by foggy mists and cloud cover.  The Cui Feng peak of the Li Shan area has immensely strong UV coming through the clouds.  The intense rays are so close, it’s almost the sun of another planet. The tea plants are subjected to extreme differences of daytime and nighttime temperatures. The dense cloud cover reduces the intensity of the Sun and UV exposure, which is quite immense at these elevations.  This natural blockage of sun triggers the tea bushes to fight to photosynthesize, and in turn, produce more amino acids.  This natural plant struggle is often mimicked with specialized shades in Japanese high mountain tea to obtain elegant tannin and fresh aromatics, but as many ideas found in specialized product creation, the concept is taken from the playbook of Mother Nature. 

The flavors differ so greatly from teas in other growing regions due to an abundance of water and oil-based aromatic substances maintained in the leaves.  Another notable taste found in Gao Shan Cha is 蛋白味 Dan Bai Wei, which references richness of amino acids—specifically egg white’s protein.  Many times, in the West, this essence is perceived as buttery, creamy, or even umami.  The low-light growing conditions also reduce the development of catechins—the polyphenols in tea leaves responsible for astringency.  The spring harvest of Gao Shan Cha delivers a balanced body with hydrosol-based aromas.  The flavors are densely packed due to the influx of nutrients from the plants coming out of their winter hibernation.  The environmentally-stressed plants are hardy and produce richly concentrated flavors and aromas unlike any other.    

This harvest year, we are featuring Garden Direct teas from the ranges of Shan Lin Xi, Li Shan (Pear Mountain), and the Mingjian Village.  Li Shan rises about 1,800m above the Pacific Ocean while our Shan Lin Xi offerings, one from a north facing slope and the other a southern facing, are situated around 1,500m.  These two areas are of the higher growing regions in Taiwan.   The Mingjian Village Garden Direct Hong Cha (black teas) and oolong teas displayed in our lookbook, such as our Tie Guanyin, are from a lower elevation around 400 meters and are not considered to be Gao Shan Cha. 

Li Shan Day 1 represents the teas literally plucked on the first day of harvest from Pear Mountain.  For the flavor profile of this tea, we taste orchid, mango while the aroma is musky.  The color of the liquor is golden, and the tea leaves unfurl with each infusion to reveal the plucking standard still intact. Li Shan Day 2 gives us more floral notes of lilac, hyacinth and fruity notes of white peach and papaya.  The Shan Lin Xi offerings are harvested in the same time frame, but from two slopes.  The Shan Lin Xi North Face tastes of honeysuckle, Queen Anne’s lace, and Dan Bai Wei.  The Shan Lin Xi Spring Harvest offers rosebud and magnolia. 

The Hong Cha grown in the Mingjian Village are also supremely special black teas.  Grown from cultivars catalogued in the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station registry of cultivars by the Taiwanese government, these teas are truly notable and famous for their distinct characteristics. This registry was established at the beginning of the 20th century and has seen a few re-structures during this 120-year period.  This registry is the only professional tea-testing agency in Taiwan.

Rishi is pleased to present two very special editions of these well-known cultivars: Hong Yu 18 and a vintage Hong Yun 21.  Hong Yu 18 is also referred to as Ruby 18, which was originally developed by cross-breeding a wild Taiwan tea variety with a Burmese strain of Camellia irrawadiensis. The name Ruby 18 refers to the number by which Hong Yu is catalogued in the registry and was officially input in 1999.  The Hong Yun 21 紅韻 translates to “red charm,” which refers to its vibrant red color and the pleasing effect of its elegantly brisk structure.  It is a cross-breed of Keemun and Indian Kyang, registered in 2008. 

To obtain the best flavors, the plucking standard is distinctive for the Hong Yu 18.  After the first flush, the second harvest shoots forth.  The new shoots are yellow and red.  As they grow, the colors transition to green.  However, just before this transition happens, the leaves are plucked, giving us the optimal level of flavors to develop in the tea.

The Hong Yu 18 was processed in a particularly unique method referred to as GABA.  This process involves vacuum oxidation and alters the mouth feel and tastings notes typically expected from this cultivar.  The GABA processing refers to gamma-Aminobutyric acid, an amino acid produced naturally in the brain.  GABA has been frequently studied by scientists and is even toted as a nootropic supplement to ease social anxiety and promote brain function.

In addition to our Garden Direct selections, we offer other teas from this farm and region in our lookbook.  We use over 7 different cultivars to create 12 different teas at Rishi.  Likely, the best-known is Tie Guanyin —Iron Goddess of Mercy.  A very old cultivar known as Wu-Yi was one of the first tea types introduced to Taiwan in the 18th century.  The plant’s strong tannins, density of protein, and reddish leaf are favored for making Tie Guanyin and other oxidized, deep baking teas. 

Today, Wu-Yi is no longer widely grown in Taiwan.  However, our partnership in Mingjian Village and the popularity of Rishi’s Tie Guanyin has made us one of the largest growers of this old-school cultivar.  The secrets to processing oolong are well-guarded, but we can share some concepts used in the handling of our Tie Guanyin.  The baking chamber is specially designed and is like a sauna with a high ambient temperature.  This with the radiant temperature created by baking gives the tea its special characteristics and is baked about 3 times.  More than 30 days elapse between baking and resting to create the distinctive essence of our Tie Guanyin

Many Taiwanese teas are not organically certified for a sundry of reasons.  One being the lots can be small.  Another is when a farm transitions from conventional to organic certification, the farmer loses 2 years on the crops, as the changeover happens.  With growing conditions that are essentially that of the organic certification, and a product that is rare and high quality, many farmers do not need an organic certification to be successful.  However, Rishi is working on an organic Jade oolong crop for autumn harvest.  These teas will be deeply baked from this superb garden—more to come on that feature. 

The biodiversity of the gardens in Taiwan is incredible. Our tea partner, Jui Lung, places focus on the importance of allowing nature to nurture the grounds.  This can be seen in one of the small Wu-Yi gardens—Hong Yu 18 trees on the border, culinary herbs between the tea bush rows, and plenty of nitrogen fixing “weeds” to maintain healthy and living soils.  The Hong Yu garden, from where we source our Hong Yu Ruby 18, is surrounded by a border of trees.  This border allows a place for birds to nest, and in turn, the birds eat pests that harm tea shoots.  When walking through the grounds, one finds turmeric growing amidst the tea trees in the signature red soil of Mingjian Village.  The soil is rich and fosters the plant life in the gardens.

Taiwan is a marker of great biodiversity, rare and unique teas, and has quite a range of terroir to experience.  The precious Gao Shan Cha and unsurpassed Hong Cha teas are an excellent addition to our Garden Direct series.  Our portfolio has many delightful offerings from this essential region of tea growing.  You can experience the range of variety with our Four Seasons Spring, Jade Oolong, Bao Zhong, and Tie Guanyin in additional to our new Garden Direct teas.

Taiwan is a marker of great biodiversity, rare and unique teas, and has quite a range of terroir to experience.  The precious Gao Shan Cha and unsurpassed Hong Cha teas are an excellent addition to our Garden Direct series.  Our portfolio has many delightful offerings from this essential region of tea growing.  You can experience the range of variety with our Four Seasons Spring, Jade Oolong, Bao Zhong, and Tie Guanyin in additional to our new Garden Direct teas.