On an industrial scale the tea had been already produced in Taiwan in the second half of XIX century. During the reign of the Xiangfeng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, in 1855 Amoy traders sowed the whole island area of rice and tea. They produced mainly black and green tea to trade with Japan. To the same time are the first planting on mountain slopes and the emergence of oolongs.
The signing of
The story of the Formosan tea in Europe started after the signing of the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858 (ratified by the Emperor of China in 1860).
John Dodd, an English merchant, arrived at Taiwan in 1860 to do some research. He began working with tea traders and farmers to promote local tea, developing it slowly as an export item. In 1862 the Qing government opened the port Tamsui for foreign trade. In 1864 John Dodd established “the Dodd & Co” in Taiwan. In 1867 he started a tea company in Wanhua, Taipei, and Taiwanese oolong tea became known in the Occident as “Formosa Oolong”. In the late XIX century the word “oolong tea” was practically synonymous with Taiwanese tea.
1895 - 1945
The tea industry made a big push during the Japanese colonial rule in 1895-1945. For this time the plantation area has increased more than twice, and the production of tea reached 20,000 tonnes. Black, green and oolong teas were producing, new varieties of hybrids were developing, and the export control system was created. The main sales markets were America and Europe for which the black tea was made.
The People's Republic of China, which came to power at the island as a result of the World War II, increased significantly the production of oolongs and green tea, also maintained the export orientation and selling about 80% output in more than 60 countries.
1949 - 1987
The White Terror
The difficult situation of Taiwan within the White Terror period under the leadership of the Kuomintang government has led to a decline in the tea industry. There were made some attempts to support the production of tea. For instance, during 1964-1967, the government began to introduce a machine collecting and processing, and a new technology of the black tea production (a fractal method). In 1968 the system of public institutions, involved in a technology research and breeding activities, and that control and support tea productions, was established.
A great part in the development of such industry had trade embargos of Mainland China during 1950s and 1960s, when the island became one of the few sources of Premium Tea varieties. In 1973 the production of tea in Taiwan was 28,000 tonnes, and the export was 23,000 tonnes, i.e. 78%, which became a record achievement.
The World Crisis
In 1974 the World Crisis was erupted. The state sent its resources to the industrial sector and had lost its competitive advantages over other large tea makers, such as India and Sri Lanka. The area of tea cultivated plantations gradually decreased, the production fell and the import increased.
1986 - 2010s
The economic boom
In 1986 the tea market began to gain momentum again. There were large tea factories, as well as more than eight thousand of private tea farms had existed. New technologies had been applied. The quality of the tea was much improved. The appearance of indigenous oolongs, by that moment, was very different from the mainland’s oolongs. The tea business at Formosa experienced tough times often, which lead invariably to another high rise.
The last economic boom at Taiwan, which made the island one of the Four Asian Tigers, led to the development of this branch too. For 2010, the total production of tea reached 24,000 tonnes, the tea plantation area was 21,000 hectares, and was exported out of the country about 8,000 tonnes.
Tea Research & Extension Station
In the present situation the state policy of Taiwan is entirely focused on the support and development of the tea industry. There’s a national program, which tightly controls the level of product quality, from the state of tea plantations, the time of tea collection, the breeding and processing of raw materials to the storage conditions and tea packaging. During all these phases a compulsory public official confirms the norms stipulated at the time of the issuance of licenses and certificates. Significant studies and breeding activities are conducted, and the latest technologies are being introduced here. Founded in 1903, Taiwanese Tea Research and Extension Station is one of the most respected research institutes in the world, it has branches in every tea producing region of the island, and also it is responsible for the production development and for the sale.
The station not only does breeding activities, the study of the biological characteristics of plants and climatic and soil qualities of plantations, but the training of workers in the organic farming on test fields is carried out as well. The largest Taiwan Tea Manufacturers’ Association is supported by the state. At the local level of urban and rural authorities are farmers’ associations, affiliated to the Council of Agriculture (COA).
The wise State Program and unique environmental conditions of the island, which naturally limited in a production by small plantation areas, make Taiwan one of the leading Tea Premium manufacturers in the global market. The great importance of tea in the life of the island also is that the Tea Museum was opened in Ping-Lin. Taiwanese teahouses, schools of tea tradition are the main sources of the tea culture, which become more and more popular in the Occidental. They dictate tastes, releasing a lot of research literature and training video in English as well.
Taiwanese tea varieties long and firmly hold the leading positions at major tea auctions and from year to year they became winners of special contests. Collectors from all parts of the world are hunting for such tea. At the state level there are large exhibitions, which attract the leading experts from around the world.
All of that allows customers year after year to be firmly confident in the constancy of the high level of the tea. Taiwanese manufacturers cultivate plantations in Vietnam, Thailand, Yunnan, where they not only produce Formosan varieties, but also support and develop their indigenous traditional technologies.
For the most part, Taiwanese tea is bought by Japanese, who are extremely demanding of food, as well as the British, who are preferring island's oolongs to famous oolongs of Mainland China due to the confidence of the constancy of high quality. A lot of tea is purchased by Chinese traders, which, in turn, sell it to Europe and Asia countries. The tea for this small island state, such as Taiwan, is one of the essential sources of income.
Now there is a stable demand on the Formosan tea. About a special vogue on it says also that the market is full of a huge number of fakes. Such product, which has grown mainly in neighbour Fujian province of China, by the quantity almost equals to the annual total production on the island. But the quality of these teas is difficult to compare. The grade of such tea replicas is much lower than the mean Taiwanese. In the first place these mass forgeries sell in Asia, Russia and Europe. That is why the farmers and traders of Taiwan make special efforts to maintain and improve the quality of genuine production of the island.