Author / Photographer Julien Huang
Contrary to the common belief that tea thrives at higher elevations in mountainous areas, “Gankou Tea” defies this notion. Grown at an elevation of approximately 300 meters in the southernmost region of Taiwan, it boasts a distinctive hint of sea breeze, making it a truly unique and exceptional tea. It is also acknowledged as one of the “Three Treasures of Hengchun.”
Originally named “Mixed Tea,” it acquired this moniker during an era when tea-making equipment was subpar, and ingredients like jasmine flowers were added during brewing to enhance flavor. With significant advancements in tea-making equipment over the years, the tea underwent a rebranding and is now officially recognized as Gankou Tea.
Cultivated amidst the caress of sea breezes and bathed in the abundant sunlight of southern Taiwan, Gankou Tea encounters minimal challenges from pests and weeds. Requiring minimal pesticide use, it has become a popular choice among tea enthusiasts seeking an organic option. The high salinity in its surroundings prompts the tea leaves to store a continuous supply of energy and nutrients for survival, resulting in thick leaves and a rich aroma. Brewing for just ten seconds yields a taste that surpasses the typical bitterness of high-mountain oolong while offering a lingering sweetness. Even after seven or eight infusions, the rich and lingering flavor remains undiminished.
Nestled in Manzhou Township, Pingtung County, the small-scale tea plantations, numbering only around 4 to 5, cultivate the tea exclusively through handpicking. With a cultivation area of less than 4.85 hectares, this tea is not exported and is rarely found in mainstream tea shops, making it a unique discovery primarily known to tea connoisseurs.
The local community has ingeniously crafted “Gankou Tea Steamed Buns,” boasting a sweet aftertaste that beckons travelers with its enticing aroma. The fragrance permeates the air from 9 in the morning, and by 2 in the afternoon, one can indulge in freshly steamed meat buns. Reservations are recommended, as the dough is kneaded and fermented daily without the use of machines to ensure quality.
While exploring Gangkou Village, you might also contemplate engaging in tea picking. From sun-withering, where sunlight enhances the flavor by breaking down the wax layer and evaporating moisture, to the tea-rolling stage, the tea farmers’ enthusiasm matches the warmth of the sunlight. Just like the robust taste of Gankou Tea, the lingering aroma persists even after the tenth brew.