A comprehensive calendar of arrivals for Taiwan’s spring teas

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Father and son walking through Bagua tea garden

You must have heard it by now, spring teas are now upon us. Many of you, I am sure, are experiencing physical and emotional waves of anticipation for the festive pleasure in tasting the freshness of spring in your cup. The new tea arrivals listing you can find on our welcome page and individual product catalog pages is growing day by day as soon as new lots are confirmed. Another sure sign that spring is in the air is the flow of emails/messages coming in asking when such and such a tea is expected to be in. As much as we like to give a personalised answer to all of you, we felt this gave us an opportunity to explain some of the guiding principles that explains the scattered arrival of teas from different areas of the island. Based on these and with fresh reports coming from the gardens themselves, we’ve prepared a graphic chart giving you a schedule of expected arrival dates for the spring of 2014.  

New spring tea arrivals in Taiwan is a reality that extends over a certain period of time that can last up to 2 months until all teas are called for. I tend to compare this span of time to any famous cultural festival where  many events are anticipated and surprises are expected, with the hope of the least deceptions as possible!

Taiwan spring tea arrivals schedule

Taiwan spring tea arrivals schedule. Click to see a larger view

Of course, any attempt to predict the availability of teas is not a precise science. The daily shifts in weather will always have a determining effect on the precision of such exercise. Because of that, most growers we know will never answer a question that asks when such a tea will be ready. I have a feeling they hate it! They will simply reply by asking you to call them later to check. Some good friends are good enough to call us when they have something to offer, or even better, simply show up at our doorstep with samples of the freshly made tea of the day.

On to the more factual elements: each producing area’s expected availability can be assessed based on two main objective factors: latitude and altitude.


Despite Taiwan’s small size, there are distinctive differences between temperatures experienced in the south compared to the north of the island. Being in the northern hemisphere, this means that temperatures are relatively warmer in the south compared to the north. Very often, the southern tip is affected by different weather systems than the northern tip making the differences even larger. But, on days when both extremities are under the same system, there is a near constant difference of 2 to 3 ºC between them. This is quite a lot considering there is slightly less that 400 km on a north/south axis between them. So, transposing this to an agricultural reality, it is fair to assume that tea growing in the south will be ready sooner than tea coming from the northern areas.


This is another cause that is quite simple to grasp: Tea grown at a lower elevation will be ready sooner that tea that originates from higher altitude gardens. In this case, the fluctuations can be quite substantial. In our very own low-lying area of the Baguashan, there is a 400 m variation between the lower gardens which are a sea level and the ones closer to the edge of the Bagua ridge. This is where we are situated. I can attest that at any given time of the day, in any season, there is a near constant 2 degree difference between the bottom of the hill and us. This is clearly noticeable when scootering up the hill! The difference is remarkable enough to influence the weather experienced on the ridge where the distinct patterns of higher mountain gardens are quite frequently noticeable, like end of afternoon mist or rain, when none of this is happening a few kilometres down the hill. Transpose this to areas where gardens can be found between 400 m to 1600 m in altitude and you can imagine the wide-spread of temperature variations found within the same growing area. This is the case for the greater Alishan tea area in Chiayi County. At the time of writing this (April 14, 2014), we are aware that all lower gardens have been producing tea for a few weeks now and are for the most part done with their spring crop whereas the higher gardens haven’t even started yet. As some of you may know, our Alishan teas are sourced from the higher region of Shizhou. There is a reason for this: higher elevation Alishan teas are unquestionably better than the 400 m teas. We even tend to wait until our producer is making tea from the higher parcels  of his garden (Mr. Gao’s garden has a 200 m differential in elevation from bottom to top). So, are all teas labelled as Alishan the same, do you think? You can now make an educated guess at this point… Even the price reflects this. Lower elevation teas are less expensive simply because they simply can not command the same price as higher elevation teas. I will stop here in my qualitative comparison of Alishan teas since this can take on many more dimensions that would be too lenghthy to entertain today, the purpose here being to concentrate on objective factors that can help you understand why some Alishan teas are being offered right now when other sources (like us) are still anticipating theirs.

The same altitude differential can explain the availability of teas from one area to another but when you factor in the latitude criteria for similar altitude areas you can now understand why Shanlinxi teas will be available earlier than Lishan teas further north. So which teas are we expecting last? — the prestigious Dayuling and Fushoushan high-mountain oolongs should find their way into our catalogue some time in May.

As a footnote to this quick entry, it has now been a week now that the island is experiencing warm and sunny weather. What initially started off as a delayed picking season is quickly catching-up with many areas now reporting hastened pickings. This means that we’ll be very busy traveling around the island in the coming weeks. We’ll try to post as much as we can during that time but for those who appreciate an up to the minute report on new arrivals you may follow our Facebook page or visit our home page to check out the latest arrivals listing.

All the best from the Bagua tea garden, Nantou, Taiwan!

Sunday afternoon tea at the Bagua tea garden

Sunday afternoon tea at the Bagua tea garden


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