I finally had a chance to talk to the Baozhong Farmer, Mr. Chen. He told me that he has been making tea for 40 years. He owns tea farms in the Pinglin area, just south of Taipei. He and his wife mostly make tea, and in the busy tea making season, they will hire tea pickers. Farmer Chen handles the entire tea making process himself.
He thanked me for liking his Baozhong tea.
I asked him what he thinks about the tea competition. He told me that it's not all that fair. However, since the tea judges decide what is a good tea, he only can do his best. I asked him about Taiwanese Oolong getting greener and greener. He said it's the trend. He still wants his Baozhong a bit more oxidized than the current trend. I asked him why he doesn't like really lightly-oxidized Oolong and he said it's because the tea has less taste (滋味) and mouth feel. He thinks a true Oolong tea should have a nice mouth feel. If a Baozhong becomes much greener, we can all change and just make a Green Tea.
I noticed that in recent years, Farmer Chen almost never wins first place. I think it's because he still wants to make Baozhong with a bigger taste. I asked him if I can learn how to make tea from him. He laughed and said it's a really tough job. I told him that I can do it, but he still repeated that it's a very tough job.
I asked him about this winter Baozhong. He said that in the beginning, the temperature was not cool enough. I asked him what's the problem with higher temperature and he said that the tea won't taste like "winter tea".
He told me that since the weather is warmer, the "stirring green" (浪青) process has to be fast because the tea oxidizes faster ( Please see the note for "stirring green). So there should be a shorter period of time between each "stirring green" interval. He told me that he prefers that the temperature be below 20c. He said that for a few days this season, the temperature dropped, so even yesterday, he was making tea. It takes him about 24 hours to finish one batch of tea.
I asked him if he can still make more oxidized Baozhong. He said that if people ask him to make it, he will do it. I was so excited to hear it. He told me he likes tea that way, too. Fragrance in a tea is important, but how a tea feels in the mouth should be important as well, if not more so.
Farmer Chen hasn't seen me for a couple of seasons, so I told him that I will for sure visit him whenever I am in Taiwan and remind him again that I want to learn how to make tea from him.
"Stiring Green": After tea leaves are oxidized to the right degree outdoors, farmers will take those tea leaves indoors. Leaves will stay in tea baskets indoors without the farmers touching or shaking them. The purpose of this is to let the water content evaporate from the edges of tea leaves and the water content in the leaves will distribute evenly. At the right moment, farmers will decide to stir tea leaves. We call this process "stiring green". The first goal of "stiring green" is to let the water in the tea leaves "evaporate" evenly. The second purpose of this process is to let leaves rub each other so that oxidation of tea leaves will continue.