Taiwan Tea Study Tour June 2009
If a picture tells a thousand words, will a thousand pictures tell the whole story? I hope my photos will inspire you to dig deeper into Taiwan teas. Enjoy!
Organizers: Thomas Shu, ABC Tea, San Marino, CA and Josephine Pan, Organic Teas Only, San Marino, CA
Participants: Kirsten Kristensen, Tea 4 U, LLC, Ocean, NJ; Robert Krul, CTC Brewt Corporation, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada; Cory Krul, Cornelia Bean Ltd. Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Ken Rudee, Barnes & Watson Fine Teas, Mercer Island, WA; Richard and Richy Sakuma, Sakuma Bros. Farms Inc., Burlington, WA; Greg Smith, Student, Carrboro, NC; Elise Scott, Pearl Fine Teas, Washington D.C.
Sponsor: Taiwan Tea Manufacturers Association (TTMA) represented by Jackson Huang, Senior Advisor, TTMA, ABC Teas, Taiwan; Norman Shu, Chairman, TTMA; Ted Fan, Secretary General, TTMA; Professor David Liao
Saturday-Sunday, June 20-21, 2009
To join the Study Group I left Newark, NJ at 11:10 am and arrived in Tokyo (Narita), Japan the next day at 01:55 pm. After a 3 hour stop in Narita I left Japan at 4:50 pm and arrived in Taipei, Taiwan at 7:25 pm. Total travel time: 22 hrs. In Taipei Airport I was met by a limo driver who took me to Dong Wu Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday evening where I joined my roommate Elise Scott from Pearl Fine Teas, excited to begin this exciting journey into the world of tea.
Monday, June 22, 2009
We left the hotel at 8 am to avoid the worst morning traffic. First stop was at the Wenshan Tea Garden teashop in Shenkeng, an old tea town in the Wenshan area famous for their Pouchong teas. We were served two Pouchong teas, the first an early spring, the second a later spring tea, and finally a GaBa tea (a non-oxigen tea) which is considered a medicinal tea, great for hangovers.
Wenshan Tea Garden teashop in Shenkeng old town, Wenshan area
Next stop was at TRES – the Taiwan Research and Extension Station, the Wenshan branch, where we were met by the crew ready to teach us how to make Pouchong tea. Processing the tea took more than eight hours, so while the tea withered we were lectured in the special Taiwan cultivars of Camellia sinensis including an extensive tea tasting. In the afternoon we were interviewed by a local TV station who inquired about our interests and backgrounds in tea. After a late dinner we returned to our hotel exhausted after a long day’s work in the hot and humid environment.
Pouchong (Baozhong) tea processing at TRES, Wenshan Branch in Pinglin
Thomas told us how to make ‘butt tea’ and naturally I had to try it. Plucked a handful of ‘two-leaves-and-a-bud’s from the TRES organic tea garden during our visit after lunch and put them in my front pocket. Left them there for the rest of the day and ‘discovered’ them when we got back to the hotel in the evening. Made a cup with the ‘worn’ leaves that was surprisingly good! Oh, how I felt like Shen Nung, some 5,000 years ago!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Leaving the hotel we were met by the Taipei morning traffic: hundreds of mopeds. As soon as we got out of Taipei the countryside showed a plethora of landscapes: spring onions, rice fields, temples, banana plantations, etc. We spent the morning at Ben Mountain Tea Garden in a little Hakka village near Yilan City enjoying prize winning teas and spectacular views of the high grown tea gardens.
The afternoon was spent at the National Center for Traditional Arts in Wujie Township, Yilan County. The cultural center featured many traditional arts and crafts from Taiwan’s history. I hadn’t had dragon beard candy since we lived in Hong Kong in the beginning of the 1990s. See here how it is made:
Tea at “19 Tea House”
The evening offered a visit to a local tea artist and teashop in the old part of Taipei called 19 Tea House. We had a great discussion of his unique concept of offering tea in a cup in the same size as the Yixing teapot compared to traditional Taiwan tea taking and teashops generally.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
At 8 am we left Taipei with the 2-hour “Taroko Express” train to Hualien City. We were met by a tour bus ready to take us on a sightseeing trip to the spectacular Taroko Gorge marble mountain cliffs in Taroko National Park.
Visit at Taroko National Park
Heading south along the Pacific Ocean we stopped at the Pine Gardens which used to be a resort place for suicide bombing soldiers before heading towards Pearl Harbor during WWII. They enjoyed earthly pleasures with the help of Geishas. Young artist Lin Ren-hsin exhibited his interpretation of the suicide bombers through special butterflies.
Stop at Pine Gardens
Visit at the Dancing Crane Tea District in Rueisuei
Thursday, June 25, 2009
After spending the night at the beautiful natural hot spring hotel we left for another busy day in tea processing at TRES, Taitung Branch.
Luminous Hot Spring Resort & Spa
Visiting TRES, Taitung Branch
Processing of Honey Green Tea at TRES, Taitung
Lunch at nearby tea restaurant and visit to ‘Burgundy tea” house
How to make Tuo Cha – Pressed tea
Walking tour through TRES Organic Tea Garden
Five hour train trip from Luye to Taipei
Friday, June 26, 2009
Back again in Taipei we would only do a short trip this morning to the north-western part of Taiwan in Longtan, Hsinchu County to make the famous white tip oolong, also called “Oriental Beauty.”
Oriental Beauty – Step 1 – plucking of tea leaves
Oriental Beauty – Step 2 – outdoor withering
Lunch break and visit to Fu Yuan Tea Manufactory On our way to lunch we stopped by Josephine Pan’s grandmother’s place and paid her a quick visit. It seems that she holds the secret to a long and healthy life. Being well in her 90s she lives all by herself and even maintains her own vegetable garden.
Fu Yuan Tea Manufactory is owned by Ted Fan’s sister’s family. They make tea for the lower end domestic market, e.g. RTD and are specialists in pomello tea, a health drink great for treating colds (which I happened to suffer from that day).
Visit at TRES, Yangmei, Taoyuan Branch
Oriental Beauty – Step 3 – tea processing
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Today’s program was to visit the ceramics town Yingge. We visited two stores and did our shopping, enabling us to present a Taiwan Tea Ceremony in a proper Taiwan way. After a bus-lunch (Taiwanese MacDonald’s!) we reached Norman’s factory where an extensive tea tasting had been prepared for us. On the way back we stopped by the old Formosa Black Tea Co, which is now a museum run by Mr. Ching-Shih Lou. Mr Ching-Shih prepared an educational tour for us through his warehouse and showrooms including a tea tasting and tea covered rice cakes.
Visit to the ceramics town Yingge near Taoyuan City
Visit to and tea tastings at Sha Ken Tea Manufactory
Visit to the Formosa Black Tea Company and Tea Museum
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Even though the official program ended Saturday evening, TTMA had arranged a special walking tour Sunday morning through the old streets of Taipei. Thomas’ brother Jackson Huang vividly explained how the tea used to be loaded from ships and transported to warehouses located at the first street in the old part of the town near the shipyard and the Tea Association’s mansion. In the afternoon Josephine took some of us shopping at the street markets in the newer part of Taipei and we all met in the sophisticated shopping center “Taipei 101” with the 101-storey tall sightseeing tower.
Walking tour in the old part of Taipei
Shopping tour and visit to “Taipei 101” in the new part of Taipei
Monday, June 29, 2009
Monday was departure day for most of us and we were picked up in limos to drop us off at our individual flights back to the U.S. Even the Taipei airport offered tea experiences. It truly shows how proud the Taiwanese are of their teas. The airport had several teashops with tea tastings and tempting tea flavored cakes/cookies. Japan offered only a minor kiosk with a few Japanese teas for sale, but had matcha-flavored KitKat chocolate.
This has been a significant trip in my life as a Tea Coach. It was a fantastic experience to get so close to the origin of tea and to meet the people behind the process. Our eight study tour participants made a great group with good interaction and valuable discussions. The arrangement of the tour by Thomas Shu and Josephine Pan was beyond expectations and imaginations. And without the support from TTMA (The Taiwanese Tea Manufacturers Association) we wouldn't have been able to enter the many doors that were opened to encourage our education in Taiwan Teas.
Hugs and thanks to all of you! Three hearts!