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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Da Yu Ling

Many of you have probably already heard the news that the Taiwanese government is planning on shutting down the tea farms in the DaYuLing area, which is famous for its premium quality high mountain oolong. We have heard this rumor for the past three years and I learned that the government is pretty serious about it this year.

When I was in Taiwan this past May, I thought it would be great if I could find a good DaYuLing tea. We didn't carry it last season and had a fairly small amount of it the season before that. It would also have been great because this year might have been the last season for us to enjoy this tea.

On May 22nd, 4 days before I left for Seattle, I went to visit a tea friend and hoped to hear some great news about DaYuLing tea. We sat down and he said, "Not good. The tea is not good. The tea farms in the FuShouShan and DaYuLing area were attacked by 'red spiders'." He showed me a picture he took in FuShouShan. There were around 10 "red spiders" on one tea leaf. I later learned that red spiders are actually not spiders. They are a pest to many plants and fruits. They are like spider mites (kind of like aphids); I don't know exactly what they're called in English but I'm sure you can find more information about them somewhere online.

I asked my friend why it was a bad thing to have "red spiders" on the tea bushes. Afterall, isn't Oriental Beauty also produced with the help of some sort of bugs? He replied, "That's different. The bugs for Oriental Beauty nibble behind the tea leaves and take some of the leaves' moisture out from the vein. The red spiders bite too much and destroy the cells in the leaves, so it will be hard to make good tea."

I feel bad for the farmers and feel bad for not being able to get a good DaYuLing. Hopefully, I will still have a chance next season.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Good Surreal Experience

I went to Dong Ding mountain with my friend Jennifer Sauer, a professional photographer. The farmer was waiting for us as we arrived and showed us where we were going to stay for the night. After we all settled in, he gave us some Dong Ding teas to try. He told me to make the tea. He said I should make the teas the way I am used to so that I could choose the teas to buy based on the usual way that I taste and serve tea. I thought that was fair and proceeded to brew the teas.

After sampling six teas, I had an idea of which two I liked. The farmer's wife came out from the kitchen at that time and told me she saved two special teas (out of the 6) that she thought I might like. I pointed at two cups and she said "exactly." I smiled at her and thanked her. I like the way we communicate. No need to say very much because we have a good mutual understanding.

We had an early dinner and then the farmer took us out to see fireflies. I sometimes feel like the farmer is living in the past. It shows up in such things as his taste in music. Every time he starts his car, music from the 1930's to 70's would start playing. When we got to see the fireflies, it was dark and it was magical to see those floating lights in the trees. Suddenly, I started to crack up a bit as I heard the music from the farmer's car. It was surreal. That was so Taiwan, where anything is possible.

The next day, the farmer took us to see some tea being processed and we visited his friends and relatives for tea. The landscape is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. When I looked at the mountains and tried to see beyond them, there was a beauty that was so touching that I couldn't help but cry. I always look forward to being in Taiwan, but it's hard for me too because I will eventually have to say goodbye to the land and to the nice people I meet.

I thought this season's Dong Ding Traditional tea is not as robust as the one from the previous season, but it has a softer mouth feel. Two days ago, I had a great Dong Ding tea session with a tea friend. It was yummy! Jennifer also shot some videos of the tea making process. It will take a while to edit, but we promise to share them when they're ready.

*All the pictures in this post come from Jennifer Sauer.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding

I walked into an apartment in Taipei and the owner greeted my son, Jennifer (my friend) and I with a smile. He asked us what kind of tea we would like to drink. After some more chit chat, his wife pulled out a bag of tea and brew it for us.

As we were sipping on one of his oolongs, the owner asked us if we would like to see charcoal roasted tea. I have to admit I was surprised to hear that because we were in an apartment! He lead us through a room and opened a door. The air was hot and heavy, making me feel like I was in a sauna room with a charcoal smell! It was a surreal experience. There were two baskets of tea being roasted at that time. The room is so small that it can only hold two baskets. He lifted one of the baskets to let me see the charcoal. There were ashes on top and he used a hand tool to push some ashes aside so that I could see the actual burning charcoal.

We went back out to the living room and drank more tea. I asked him about the process of charcoal roasting tea. He said it took him one and a half days to build the charcoal fire the way he wanted. Each bamboo basket can only hold one and a half jin of tea (900 grams). Sometimes he would roast the tea for two hours and take it off the fire. When he has finished one roasting, he may let the tea rest for 6 months before roasting it again. He said that there isn't really a formula for roasting, it's all based on his experience and feeling.

I purchased some of his charcoal roasted Dong Ding to share with you. Also, all of the new Spring teas should be listed on my website soon. I should be receiving the rest of the Spring oolongs shortly and will schedule tastings for them. Please come by and see me soon!