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.