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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Eve in Taiwan, Part I

Greetings from Taiwan!

Today (day two in Taiwan) I woke up and still had jet lag. While I had tea with my friend, she told me she didn't have to work today and asked me what I wanted to do. My mind was thinking about all of the work I should be doing today, but I looked out and it was sunny and beautiful. I looked at her and thought, "What the heck. I should enjoy today off with her!" I told her we should go to PingLin to enjoy the view and sunshine. 

The moment we set out from her house, we were already filled with joy. The breeze and sunshine brought smiles to our faces (70F, awesome!!!).

Before we headed out, I called a tea friend to let him know that I had already arrived in Taiwan. He told me he was planning to be in PingLin to pick up some tea for me. What a nice coincidence!

We met in Farmer Chen's shop and had some tea. It was great to see Mrs. Chen. She greeted us with a big smile. She said Farmer Chen was out picking tea today. The weather conditions were good to make Dong Pian, the second winter harvest tea.

Mrs. Chen heated up the water and treated us to a pot of the most freshly made Dong Pian Baozhong. It was very fragrant. She said Dong Pian Baozhong is from JinXuan, Cui Yu, and SiJiChun varietals. She said Chin Xin varietal doesn't grow very quickly after the first winter harvest. The tea we were drinking was made from Cui Yu, so it’s no wonder the bouquet was very bold.

After tea, we went to have lunch. Ah food, so good! While we were eating, Mr. Tsai's wife told us about some special dishes from her hometown, and invited us to go there to eat! I told her that only Taiwanese people will talk about other food while they are already eating a lot of food. I always find these moments to be adorable and I truly savor them.

After lunch, we went to look for Farmer Chen. I went to one of his tea fields and didn't find him. On the way there, we saw lots of beautiful tea flowers. Mr. Tsai said that they are getting popular in Taiwan, so lots of people are growing them.

It was beautiful in PingLin today. I took in as much as I could and feel very lucky to be here with my dear friends. A view, a smell, the sound of birds and insects, and friends remind me how much I love this special island.

We didn't end up finding Farmer Chen, but it's alright. I can imagine his smile and I keep it in my heart while we continue our trip in PingLin.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Yunnan Tea Tour - April 2015

My tea friend, Awoono (born and raised in Yunnan), offered me the opportunity to lead a Yunnan tea tour with her. I have been wanting to go there for a long time!

We have been working on the itinerary. The more I work on it, the more excited I am about the trip. I am looking forward to exploring Yunnan with you!

The trip will be scheduled as a 10 day tour. We are planning for the tour to take place from April 12th through the 21st.

The highlights of this trip will include:

The city of MoJiang (Awoono's hometown) to visit Awoono's uncle who is tea farmer. We are hoping to pick tea with him and learn how to fire tea as well. We will also be visiting a Puer tea farm where the farmer has been practicing ecological/traditional ways of farming (no pesticides or chemical fertilizers). Awoono is making arrangements with him to show us how to press Puer cakes.

Then we will travel south to the Menghai region and visit a well-preserved tea forest. Awoono told me this is one of the best-preserved old tea trees areas. The tea trees there are from 200 to 1000 years old. I can't wait to hike through the tea forest! Then we will go to NanNuo Mountain to talk to some farmers and hunt for some more delicious Puer teas.

We will then return to Menghai city, just in time for one of the biggest festivals there. This celebration is observed throughout Southeast Asia, in such countries as Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. In Yunnan, it's celebrated by the Dai tribe. Locals sprinkle water on each other, hoping to wash away the "old and bad" and to welcome in the new.

We are also planning to take participants to visit some locally-made pottery workshops. Clay pottery is a great way to store the precious tea cakes that you will be able to find during our trip. At the end of our tour, we plan to visit the beautiful old city of LiJiang.

There will be more details to come. Meanwhile, if you are interested in the tour, please contact me at tea@floatingleaves.com so that I can make sure you get the latest news and updates about the this very special trip. Let's go to Yunnan together!

*photos provided by Awoono.

Monday, November 17, 2014

December Online Tea Class: Puer

Here is the date for December's online tea class:

December 14th (Sunday) at 10am Pacific Time

In this Puer tea class, I have two goals: one is to help the participants learn to taste Sheng Puer from young tea trees vs Sheng Puer from older tea tress. The second goal is to show participants how Shou Puer and Sheng Puer can be aged.

The teas that we are going to taste in this class are: a mini Shou Tuocha; a Shou Puer Cake from Jin Bo Da Shan (around 10 years old); a 2014 Sheng Puer from MengKu; a 2014 Sheng Puer Cake from Xia Jia Zai, and a Yin Hao Tuocha from the 80's.

For information on the materials you will need for this class and how to sign up for it, please refer to our previous Online Tea Class Post.

I look forward to sharing some tea with you soon!

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.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spring High Mountain Oolong

One of Floating Leaves Tea's tea buyers, Rob Bageant, went out to source our Spring High Mountain Oolongs last week. He was able to find us some High Mountain Oolongs with a smooth broth and clear HuiGan 回甘 (sweetness that returns to the throat area after you swallow the tea broth).

Tasting Spring Oolongs in Taiwan

He said that due to the unstable weather conditions, the bouquet of these High Mountain Oolongs might not be as strong (for example, lack of sunshine or too much rain), but with the highly-skilled tea farmers and producers, all of the tea he found us is smooth with wonderful HuiGan. I can't wait to taste them!

The first batch of High Mountain teas was sent over from Taiwan. I will be hosting some tastings soon.  Please check our blog and website for tasting times and dates.

sorting tea

*photos provided by Rob Bageant

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Muzha Tieguanyin Farmer Talking About Tea - Part II

As Farmer Chen brewed the third tea for us, he said, "To roast a tea this heavily takes courage. I have failed with thousands of jin 斤 (a weigh measurement of 600 grams) in order to learn. The temperatures goes up to 130 celcius. Normally people stop at 120." He said he wanted his tea to climb mountains, go to the peak, come back down to the valley, and then go back to the top. He said that when his tea arrives on the top of the mountain, it says thank you, and the mountain peak would talk back and say thank you as well. How beautiful! I savored the tea while busily translating.

He then talked about the Chinese character for "tea 茶." He said the tea character has three parts: grass, human, and tree (tea plant). The human does the work for the grass and the tea plant. While I was translating, everything made sense. Now I can't quite remember what he really meant! Well, I will ask him when I see him next time.

We drank more tea and his wife came out with some tea plums and crackers for us.

The farmer continued,"the third time when he shakes the green, he knows what the tea will be." He used Do-Re-Mi as an analogy. He said a good tea keeps going up from one infusion to the next. He said, "when making tea, I pull it in, let it go a little, pull in, let it go a little. I don't let my tea shine right away. My tea is more for the long haul. It keeps turning, and changing. I want my tea to be an endurance tea. I control when it peaks and how long it lasts by how I make it."

His smile and pride shone through his face. I felt so honored to share his knowledge with this incredible group of people, so open and so eager to take everything in. With my son's laughter in the background and delicious tea in front of me, I have to say, I am very lucky, and it was indeed a very good day!

*Thank you, Stephanie Wilson, for sharing the notes!
*photos provided by Matthew Kraus.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

An Update on this Spring's Oolong - Spring 2014

A view in PingLin. Photo provided by Matthew Kraus.

A couple of days ago, I was talking with one of Floating Leaves Tea buyers, Mr. Tsai, about our Baozhong. So far, he thinks this season's Baozhong is better than last season's. I am excited! He will go out to Farmer Chen's place and get us some Farmer's Choice Baozhong. He is hoping to send it out this Wednesday or Thursday. Our Spring Baozhong might arrive by the middle of May!

Our Dong Ding Traditional will be return to our tea lineup. It is scheduled to arrive around mid-May as well. I can't wait to taste this tea. A traditional Dong Ding is one of my favorite Oolongs from Taiwan.

Our other tea buyer, Rob, will be out next week to look for some good High Mountain Oolongs. Stay tuned. I will have more Spring Oolong updates soon!

Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 Taiwan Tea Tour

I am very excited to announce that I will be leading a tea tour to Taiwan this December! I have not been back there during the winter time for the past 12 years. I can't wait!

On this tea tour, we will focus more on tea processing and how to taste tea. For tea processing, the goal is for the participants to learn the basic concepts about outdoor oxidation and tea roasting. We will be tasting teas with farmers from 4 different farms and will learn from them what they look for in a tea that they specialize in producing. The tea farms that we will visit will be PingLin, Muzha, Alishan and Dong Ding.

The trip is scheduled to be from December 23rd to 31st. I will be updating the logistics on Floating Leaves Tea Website soon.

The following photos are from our May 2013 trip. They're so much fun to look at and bring back really nice memories.

Farmer Chen showed us outdoor oxidation at PingLin

Tea field on Dong Ding mountain

Tea picking in Muzha. Photo provided by Matthew Kraus

Indoor Oxidation on Alishan. Photo provided by Matthew Kraus

Friday, May 02, 2014

May Online Tea Class - Tieguanyin

I have set the date for May's Online Tea Class:

May 25th at 10am Pacific Time.

In this tea class, we will taste and learn more about lightly oxidized Anxi Tieguanyin, Modern Processed Taiwan Tieguanyin, Traditional Muzha Tieguanyin, Aged Muzha Tieguanyin, and I am hoping to get some traditional Anxi Tieguanyin for this class, too.

For information on the materials you will need for this class and how to sign up for it, please refer to our previous Online Tea Class Post: http://www.floatingleavestea.blogspot.com/2014/03/floating-leaves-tea-april-online-tea.html

I look forward to sharing some tea with you soon!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Muzha Tieguanyin Farmer Talking About Tea - Part I

I have been planning my next Taiwan Tea Tour (it's tentatively scheduled to be around Christmas/New Year's time - more information coming soon), and remembered that I didn't finish writing about 2013's May Tea Tour. It's almost the anniversary!

I have been wanting to write about what the Muzha Farmer taught us during our previous trip. One of the tour members, Stephanie Wilson, is a great note taker and she has been very generous to share her notes with me. When I went through her notes just now, it immediately brought me back to when we drank tea at the Muzha tea house.

photo provided by Matthew Kraus

I have known Farmer Zhang for about 4 years now. He is one of my favorite tea people in the whole world. I love his smile and his dedication to good tea. The more I know about him, the more I respect him as a farmer and as a tea person. He doesn't simply grow tea and make tea. Tea is an art and love for him. And he "designs" his tea and hopes that tea drinkers can understand what he tries to present.

After we sat down to have tea with Farmer Zhang, Stephanie noticed and wrote in her note," Great smile, dirt under his nails....being from a farming family myself, I love that." I love that, too! The following picture is Farmer Zhang, and I hope you can see what we saw in him that day.

photo provided by Stephanie Wilson

The first tea he served us was one that he had just finished roasting about an hour before we had arrived. Through this tea, he guided us to taste the base and broth. He told us that the tea was not quite ready and the energy wouldn't be showing up fully yet, but he wanted us to taste something that was he had just finished working on. He then asked me where this group "was" in their tea abilities. I told him some of them could taste tea very well.

He proceeded to brew the next tea. He said, "Tieguanyin is a slow tea - you cannot hurry it. It takes about a month to open. If hurried, it becomes bitter. A good Tieguanyin liquor is yellow with a red base." Then he continued, "When I am checking a tea, if I can make a pot for 9 to 10 times, then the tea can withstand 50 years. Good tea is hard to find, just like true love. One must know the tea by going really far to see if it's good. Whether a tea can last through the years is dependent upon the tea maker."

photo provided by Matthew Kraus

While I am writing this, I am sipping his 2012 Tieguanyin. Part of me is here and part of me is in Taiwan. I think I will stop now and just savor his tea for a while. I will continue with the notes in my next post.

Meanwhile, if you want to read more about our trip, please check out Stephanie's blog: http://stephcupoftea.blogspot.com/search/label/Taiwan%20Tea%20Tour She has wonderful writings about the trip and the tea!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Floating Leaves Tea April Online Tea Class

I recently finished my first online tea class. I was a bit nervous, but it went really well! Thank you to my 9 wonderful tea class attendees for signing up for the first class. You guys were great and I had a great time sharing tea with you.

Photos from the first online tea class were taken by Steve Littky.

The April online tea class is ready to go. Here is the information:

Date: April 27th at 10am (Seattle, Pacific Standard Time)

Subject: Taiwanese Regional Oolongs. In this class, I will talk about the five major Taiwanese Oolongs. We will be tasting the teas together, and I will go through the basic differences between these teas and the major features of each tea.

Teas to be tasted:
-Baozhong from PingLin region.
-Tieguanyin from Muzha region.
-Oriental Beauty from PingLin region.
-Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding from Dong Ding mountain.
-High Mountain Oolong from ShanLinXi.

Materials you will need for this class:

-It is preferable for you to use gongfu style teaware.
-Convenient access to boiling water.
-Google Plus account (I am using Google Plus Hangout for online tea classes)

Fee: $30 includes the tea lesson, samples of the teas we will be tasting during the class and the cost of shipping the teas to you (For European and International customers, I will need to charge a bit extra for shipping).

Duration of the class: Please prepare one and one-half hour to 2 hours for the class. 

To sign up, please contact me at tea@floatingleaves.com and I will confirm availability and arrange payment with you. 

Let's drink some tea together again - over the internet!