Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dong Ding Farmer and Tea: He Refused To Sell A Tea

Before I went to Dong Ding Mountain, my friend warned me that the farmer would refuse to sell tea if he thinks the person doesn't understand his tea.

After I tasted 7 of his Dong Ding Oolongs, I settled with #3 Dong Ding. While they were packing my order, my mother and I went to get our luggage ready. "His tea is pretty good, right?" my mother asked. "Yes, I like it." "Then I should buy some for your uncle. He drinks tea" my mother said. "Get #3 or #4. They are the best ones and they are equally good. There is not enough #4 for my business, but I am going to buy it anyway. I will keep it for myself and share with some of my customers"I said.

We got our luggage ready and went to pay for the tea I ordered. My mother said to them that she would like to buy two pounds of #4. "No, you can't buy that tea. You can buy #6 or #7." Farmer said. "Excuse me? #6 or #7?" I protested. "What's wrong with #6 or #7? Are you telling me that they are bad teas?" he asked. "I don't think they are bad teas, but #3 and #4 are better!" I said. "Your mother doesn't know the difference. You can tell. You can buy #3 and #4."

It was true that my mother couldn't tell the difference, but I was still very annoyed. At the same time, I was a little bit happy that my tasting skill was confirmed.

On our way back home, I thought to myself "what a place and what a farmer!" I really like his tea but man, he is very intense!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Patience Rewarded

It is a welcome treat for me to  be able to try an aged tea that one of my customers bought from me years ago.  Today, I got to try my old Yin Hao Tuocha puer from the 1980s.  I sold this at my old shop about 8 or 9 years ago, and then again about 5 year ago when one of my suppliers found a small amount to sell me.  My customer has been aging the tea in a clay jar for about 4 years and we, along with a few other tea friends who just happened to be in the shop today, got to try this delicious tea.

It is a beautiful color and shows great signs of proper aging and a maturing, soft mouth feel.  We all agreed that it was a perfect Autumn day to enjoy this satisfying brew together.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Tea and Kindness: Inspiration and Community

About a month ago, I decided not to spend as much time on social media reading about this election. I found much of this news to be angry and damaging. I know the world is not free of problems, but I don't want to spend my time feeling angry, powerless and drained. I want to feel inspired. I want to feel love and support.

I started to shift my attention to good things around me: a child's smile, a hug, a good conversation, a delicious cup of tea, a heroic event, people doing good things for other people.... This list can go on and on, but we tend not to see many good things around us.

I decided that once a while I would write the stories of people in my life that inspire me. I would therefore like to dedicate this post to my friend, Richelle Dickerson. Four years ago, my son and I moved into her home's basement apartment. She and her family live upstairs, and her daughter and my son immidately became good friends. I couldn't have imagined my landlords would become not only our friends, but a huge support in our life as well. They have helped us so much and I am forever grateful.

Richelle is very involved in social issues; she works hard and fights for people. A couple of weeks ago, she had her birthday party. On the invitation, she asked her friends to donate to one of the three organizations if we were considering giving her birthday presents. I thought 'wow, what a kind deed!' I would like to make this wish a little bigger. 10% of Floating Leaves Tea store and online sales in November will go to her birthday wish. We will donate the money to Be The Match to help patients who need bone marrow transplants.

I have gotten a lot of help in my life, and I have helped some. It's great to feel supported and to be able to help others. It's very easy to get caught in drama and negativity, but please look around you. You can see a lot of positive things happening and good people around you. Help each other. Help somebody to possibly have a better day, a better chance or a better life.

While I am writing this, with a cup of tea right next to me, I feel very thankful to Richelle who keeps reminding me to do better and to help. I want to thank all of you who support our business this month. Let's make a big donation to Be The Match! It brings a smile on my face that our donation might help someone to get better. Thank you!

*photography by Jake Knapp.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dong Ding Farmer and Tea: Deciding On A Tea

After breakfast was cleared from the table, Farmer put the water kettle back on the stove. "You want to taste #3 and #4, right?" he asked. "Yes please!"

I proceeded to brew Dong Ding teas #3 and #4. Farmer's wife would come out of the kitchen from time to time to taste the teas. After the last infusion, she came out and looked at me closely. I was about to give the farmer my decision. She suddenly said, "Miss Tai, if I were you, I would...." "Be quiet! You can't tell Miss Tai which tea to pick!" shouted the Farmer. "It's OK. I know which one I want to buy. It's #3" I said. For the next 10 minutes, I explained to him my reasons for picking #3. I was actually talking to the wife to let her know the reason without talking to her directly. After that, I knew we had developed one of the most beautiful ways to communicate.

After she packed the tea for me, she said, "Miss Tai, don't you need the stroller for your son? Let me help you to get it." I looked at her for a couple of seconds and smiled, "Yes please. I need to get some stuff, too. Let's go together." We left the room and she said, "don't ask him about tea varietals or questions like that." I laughed, "I was very aware of it this morning." She quickly showed me some tea plants and told me about the shapes, leaf sizes and vein structure on the leaves. I thanked her for showing me that.

For the first couple of years, my tea tasting/learning journey in Taiwan had been very difficult. Not a single farmer, tea business person, or tea professional would tell me which tea he/she liked better. I knew that none of them was trying to "keep the secret" from me, it's just that they didn't want to share with me their own preferences. Their philosophy is "no one can tell you which tea is a better tea. You are the only one who can tell which one is right for you." I have come to appreciate this style of teaching, but I do have to say that it was very difficult at first and I felt like I was drowning in a sea of tea every so often.

*photography by Jake Knapp of Cloud 9 & Design Photography.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dong Ding, Farmer, and Tea: When You Drink A Tea, Can you Tell If It's Good?

I am going to focus these next couples of months writing about Dong Ding tea, so that I can finally finish my stories and avoid repeating what I have written before.

From the recent three posts of my experiences with the Dong Ding farmer, I hope you get a good sense of his personality: Dong Ding, Farmer, and Tea; Dong Ding, Farmer, and Tea: This Is What I Did For Tea; Dong Ding, Farmer, and Tea: Tasting Tea.

So much had happened during my first afternoon in Dong Ding. I woke up very early the next morning. The sun had just snuck through the clouds. I love that moment, so quiet and peaceful. The only thing that greeted me was the beauty from nature. There were tea fields around the house we stayed. I decided to take a short walk and noticed they were different tea varietals, but couldn't tell which one is which.

After looking at the tea plants for a while, I saw Farmer coming. I asked, "Are these your tea plants? They look very healthy!" He gave me an intense look again and said, "No." "It looks like they are different varietals. Can you teach me how to identify them?" I asked. "Why do you want to learn that?" he said. "Well, I own a tea business. I want to learn as much about tea as possible" I replied. He then said, "That's garbage. Now answer me a question. When you drink a tea, can you tell if it's good?" That question rang like a bell in my head. I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds and then looked at him right in the eyes, "Every time I do my best." He looked at me and I felt he could sense my sincerity. He said, "Tell you mom and son that breakfast is ready." I looked at his back and thought of that question, amazed by how that question hit me.

At breakfast he said to me, "Some people come and tell me they have been drinking tea for 20 years. The moment we share a pot of tea, I realize some of them can't taste tea at all, and that's very pathetic to drink bad tea for 20 years. I don't care how much one knows about tea. If one can't taste tea, what's the point of learning all the facts about tea?" I thought that made a lot of sense. Until today, I put "tasting tea" as my number one tea learning, and I haven't told the Farmer yet that knowledge is still very important. When one can taste more, knowledge becomes alive and beautiful.

*photograhpy by Jake Knapp of Cloud 9 Photography.