After all these years, I still cannot say that it's easy to deal with the Dong Ding Oolong Farmer, although I do find it's easier nowadays. He has learned to take "No" from me as an answer, even if he doesn't like it.
I love recalling how our relationship has evolved, from being super difficult and swearing to myself after every visit that I would never go back there, to sometimes arguing with each other, and now to a level of mutual understanding where we have learned to get along with each other.
I think he has realized how sincere I feel towards Taiwan oolong and Dong Ding tea and at the same time how stubborn I am. He knows I will stand up to him if necessary and to push for him to craft the tea that I know my customers will love. And I've learned to see how he "loves" and cares for me and other people in his unique way.
He loves to show people around. I actually really enjoy those moments when he drives us around. I love seeing the mountains and trees. I love listening to the Taiwanese oldies he plays in the car, blasting at a high volume with the windows rolled down as we drive along quiet backroads. I take in the air, the view and the music from my youth. It feels like my past life and current life blending together. I sometimes wonder if the birds and insects would say, "Here he comes again!" When my son was younger, he would hum along with the songs even though he had no clue what they were saying and it would make the farmer very happy and they would sing together. I thought that was one of the most beautiful moments I've witnessed.
Here is a clip of video where he drove us around in the mountains:
He is also very specific with things we eat. He thinks we are eating too much bad food. Their food is simple. Cooking is simple. Most vegetables come out of their own field or from the neighbors. Many times I had to eat some unknown powder which he thinks super good for our health, and drink some Chinese herbal brew which he believes will make me healthier. He also likes to ferment fruit. He has numerous jar of permented fruit "juice." I really dislike drinking those. On my last trip, I was thankful that my friends David and Jake enjoyed drinking them and it made the farmer very happy. He is OK now with me not drinking them.
I am grateful with all the things that farmer has done for me. I think I will never forget the moment he asked me, "When you drink a tea, can you taste if it's good?" I am looking forward to our future encouters. And I am really looking forward to my relationship with his wife, a strong woman behind the scene. I have been able to talk to her more and more during recent trips. She agreed to be in my Dong Ding documentary! It's time we bring her forward and showcase her skills and personality!
My friend Jake Knapp and I are going to be shooting a Dong Ding documentary this July. It's a dream come true for me to be able to showcase a tea that I think represents the soul of Taiwanese oolong. We will have a short two weeks to meet with a lot of people and to collect as many stories and as much footage as we can. The harder work will begin after our trip, when we have to edit the videos and put together a story that I think everyone will enjoy. The fundraiser page is up on my website. We appreciate and are grateful for all of your financial support as we work to preserve important Taiwanese tea culture and the human treasures who produce the finest oolongs.
The next few posts will be all about Dong Ding tea and this documentary project. Stay tuned.