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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Taiwan's Regional Teas: Oriental Beauty

Here is the talk that Stephanie and I gave on Oriental Beauty Oolong from NW Tea Festival.

Stephanie's take-on on Oriental Beauty:

"Oriental Beauty was my 'gateway tea' - meaning it was the tea that helped me get beyond simply drinking tea, and move into truly appreciating tea and studying the leaf. Bai Hao Oolong, or Oriental Beauty, is the tea that made me pay attention.

"I love everything about Oriental Beauty... its romantic story (most likely a fable), the multi-color of the dry leaves (5 colors can be found in a quality tea), the lovely color of the liquor, the aroma, the taste and the aftertaste. It's a very sensual tea.

"This heavily oxidized tea has a very unique and distinctive flavor profile. I find it to be sweet like stone fruit with a honey aroma. It's a rich tea with no bitterness - that's why I think it's a great tea to use when introducing someone to Oolong. This tea is also forgiving to brew."






And here are some facts about Oriental Beauty 東方美人 from me:

"Oriental Beauty is also known as: Bai Hao Oolong 白毫烏龍; Formosa Oolong 福爾摩沙; Champagne Oolong 香檳烏龍, and Pon Hong Te 椪風茶. The most famous places for production of Oriental Beauty are E-Mei 峨眉 and Bei Pu 北埔 of Xin Zhu County 新竹. A lot of Hakka-minority people live in these areas.

"Back in 1893, Taiwan exported around 9,630,000 kilos of tea. The United States used to have very high demand for Oriental Beauty. According to Dan Shui 淡水 customs records from 1881, tea exports to the United States alone accounted for over 90% of Taiwan total tea exports.

The highest grade of Taiwan's exported tea at that time was Oriental Beauty, the "Extra Choice" grade. It's known that many tea varietals and tea making techniques originated from China's Fujian province. However, there is some debate in Taiwan over Oriental Beauty's history, as some people don't believe the tea's production technique originally came from China. Instead, people believe that the technique was invented in Taiwan by accident (a coincidental and positive effect due to the special growing environment in Xin Zhu and Miao Li Counties).

"A unique aspect of Oriental Beauty Oolong is that it has to be "attacked" by Tea Jassids 小綠葉蟬 (an insect that some also call the Green Leafcutter), which show up around early June. Tea leaves that are attacked by Tea Jassids produce a particular "honey" and "ripe fruit" flavor. Oriental Beauty, like other Oolongs, go through the stages of: "picking 採摘;" "outdoor oxidation 室外萎凋;" "indoor oxidation 室內萎凋;" "kill green 殺菁;" "covering leaves with damp cloths 靜置回潤" (this step is the major difference between Oriental Beauty and other Taiwanese Oolongs); "rolling 揉捻;" "loosening up the leaves 解塊," and "drying 乾燥."

The key tea varietal for producing Oriental Beauty is Qing Xin Da Pa 青心大冇.

*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taiwan Regional Teas: Baozhong

In early October, Stephanie Wilson and I did a tea talk on Taiwanese Oolongs at the NW Tea Festival. We covered five Oolongs: Baozhong; Oriental Beauty; Dong Ding; Tieguanyin, and Alishan High Mountain Oolong.

Stephanie is a tea lover. She is very active in the tea community in Portland and writes a tea blog: Steph's Cup of Tea. She has also traveled to many tea regions. Last year, she joined my Taiwan Tea Tour. She helped me a lot to sort through many pictures she took in Taiwan, and during our tea talk, she talked about her thoughts on each tea region of Taiwan and how she feels about each tea, while I covered the history side of each tea. We worked together as a great team!

Stephanie's take on Pinglin and Farmer Chen:

"The light oxidation brings out the tea's sweetness and floral notes. I find it to be a soft tea. The color of the liquor is beautiful and translucent green/yellow. The best word I can think of to describe this tea is "innocence." That description works for this farmer, too. Farmer Chen was a joy to be with!
I have learned that the tea farmers and tea makers in Taiwan are very deeply skilled and devoted. For example, Farmer Chen has been making tea for 42 years. His specialty is open leaf style, that's how Baozhong is traditionally made. He has limited time to process in other ways, so when he is interested in making a rolled Oolong, he sends the tea off to someone who specializes in that style."







And here is some history background for Baozhong 包種:

"Wenshan 文山 Baozhong vs. Pinglin 坪林 Baozhong? Wenshan is a district. Wenshan includes Xindian 新店, Shiding 石碇, Pinglin 坪林, Shenkeng 深坑, and Xizhi 汐止. Currently, Pinglin is the most well-known production area for Baozhong.



Baozhong was believed to be invented by Wang Yichen 王義臣. He used the Wuyi Cliff tea method to make tea, wrapping tea leaves in rectangular-shaped paper, which he stamped the tea and company's name on. Baozhong tea means "the wrapped kind of tea".

Baozhong tea was a scented tea for quite a long time. When Taiwan tea exports were impacted by the bad economy, some tea merchants learned of scented tea from Fujian and sent materials to Fujian to be scented. Merchants later learned to scent Baozhong in Taiwan. In early 1900s, scented Baozhong was a huge export tea.

A historical record states that in 1885, Wang Shuijin 王水錦 and Wei Jingshi 魏靜時 arrived in Nangang 南港 and found the soil and weather condition to be suitable for tea growing. They started to establish tea growing, and it's believed that Nangang is the birth place of Baozhong in Taiwan.

Qingxin 青心 Oolong is considered to be the best varietal for Baozhong tea. However, one can find many different varietals that are grown in the Pinglin region."

Have fun reading! In the next post, I will write about our talk on Oriental Beauty Oolong.

*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Floating Leaves Tea Is 9 Years Old!

I know it sounds cliche, but time does fly! I feel like I was just celebrating our 8-year anniversary last month.

It has been a good year. Thank you all for the support! It's great to serve those of you who have been loyal to Floating Leaves Tea for so many years and I will continue to source delicious tea to share with you. It's also wonderful to meet new tea drinkers!

During this past year, I have had a great time teaching tea classes. This is an excellent way for me to share my passion and to grow my tea knowledge with those who have attended my classes. I also had a fun time connecting with some of you through my online tea classes. Thank you for connecting and thank you for all of the great feedback you gave me! The store and online classes will return soon (with my son's summer schedule, my schedule has been a bit hectic).

Cliff Tea Tasting at Floating Leaves Tea, . Photo provided by Douglas King.


I also very much enjoyed my time in Portland this past up year, doing tea tastings for a fabulous group of tea lovers there. Biggest thanks to Jan Ellis for hosting these events and thank you, all the great WuWo people in Portland, for making these tastings possible!


At a Portland Tea Tasting. Photo provided by Stephanie Wilson.

I want to thank Rob and Mr. Tsai for sourcing tea for me whenever I can't make it back to Taiwan (I do miss being in Taiwan and plan to be there this December!).

Thank you, Ninja R, for editing my blog and all of the advice (yes, you will receive traditional Dong Ding and Tieguanyin for life). Thank you, Doug, for all of the beautiful tea photos you have taken and shared with me. Thank you, Michael, Xenia, Lee, Jason, and Alice for tech support. Thank you, Yossarian, for funding and building the beautiful tea table in the shop. And thank you, many of you, for giving me suggestions, advice and help to make Floating Leaves Tea better!

There are so many people and things I feel grateful for!

I almost forgot to mention the Anniversary Sale begins on August 8th and goes through the 16th. ALL of the tea will be 20% off. For in-store customers, I will be brewing tea from noon to 3 on Saturday the 9th. It's a free event. Come taste some tea with me! For online customers, you will receive 2 free half-ounce tea samples with your order. Please just let me know which two teas you would like in the comment box.

Thank you all! Here's to another great year with more cups of delicious tea!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Japanese Green Tea

A couple of weeks ago, my tea friend, Tatsuo from Charaku Tea taught a very interesting Japanese Tea Class.




He presented 9 teas: 3 Senchas; one Gyokuro; and one each of Kukicha, Genmaicha, Houjicha, and Matcha with Wagashi!









I was very intrigued with the Senchas he presented: they are all delicious, yet different. Tatsuo said, "For most of the Sencha, I usually use around 170 to 175 degree water for the first infusion, and look for umami (sweetness) notes. For later infusions, I go up 180 - 190 and this normally brings out more shibumi (astringency). Of course it all depends on the tea....and my mood."



I have been learning Taiwanese tea for years now. I feel that in Taiwan tea drinkers are looking for specific things from tea, too, but they "allow it to happen." From what Tatsuo presented, he "makes it happen." I find both ways have a tremendous amount of beauty.

Tatsuo offered a lot of information  (and a lot of tea!) in this class. In the end, he whisked everyone a bowl of matcha. We gave the participants a piece of Wagashi that was made that morning from Tokara. It was a wonderful way to end the class. I felt like I was eating and drinking a perfect piece of art, crafted by people who really care.






I feel very fortunate to have Tatsuo at Floating Leaves Tea to share his expertise in Japanese Tea. I am certain I will invite him back again soon!

*photos provided by Douglas King.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

2014 Taiwan Tea Tour

I have been working out the details for what we will be doing for this December's tea tour and I am super excited for the trip!

We are of course going to taste delicious teas at Wistaria Teahouse on day one, a great place to relax after a long flight, as we take our time to take in all of the new and exciting things that Taipei has to offer.



For tea processing, we will be visiting farmer Chen in PingLin to learn about outdoor oxidation (weather permitted). In Alishan, I hope we will get to see the second Winter harvest and watch indoor oxidation and oolong rolling.



We will be spending some time with a tea friend of mine who has been in the tea business for the past 25 years. He will teach us more about his oolong roasting tricks and techniques.



In Muzha, we will be spending time with Farmer Zhang to taste his Tieguanyin and to learn how to experience "tea energy." To further deepen our tea knowledge, we will be visiting a well-regarded tea person who is passionate about growing and sourcing traditional style Taiwanese Oolongs, and learn from him the different production methods and how to taste different types of teas.



And of course, we will visit several night markets, eating lots of food, and having many other unexpectedly wonderful adventures.


For logistics, please visit our tea tour page. There are still two spots open for this trip. If you are interested, please contact me at tea@floatingleaves.com

*photos provided by Matthew Kraus.