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

Friday, June 26, 2009

Favorite Moments of the Trip

I was very happy that I could make it to Taiwan with Konghai. It was really nice to see my mother and my family. It was their first time seeing Konghai and they adored him! My mother even made the effort to take extra days off from her work to go to Dong Ding mountain with us.

It was hard for her to to leave part with us so soon, but we promised we would go back to visit next year.

I saw my best friends from high school. One of them came with us on our trip to Dong Ding and we got to spend half a day together. Even though it was only half a day, we both found our friendship to be strong. It will never die off and we care for each other. I saw my other friends in Taipei, got to hang out with them, and one of them was very generous to let me stay at her place.

I was very grateful to the farmers and tea people I met on this trip. I met the Dong Ding farmer and the Tieguanyin farmer for the first time. Both of them and their wonderful wives spent a lot of time with me and I can't wait to see them again next year to learn the arts of their tea.

And I really enjoyed seeing my old tea friends and mentors, like farmer Chen, Mr. Tsai and Mr. Lui. I have known Chen and Lui for five years, and Tsai for more than 10 years. It was very relaxing to be with them. They have all had their tea business for many years. I like to be at their establishments, not only to drink good tea, but also to see people come and go. It doesn't seem like time is really an issue for anyone.

I enjoyed learning tea from them, too. Most of the farmers and tea people are not very good at explaining things. They teach by telling me to "experience" tea. This is so different from the logical way of learning. I was frustrated in the beginning, but later, I learned to appreciate this method. If I can't taste the tea, it doesn't matter how many facts I learn about the tea. I knew that I had breakthroughs in my learning when I heard such statements as : " Hey Miss Tai, I am going to brew a tea that will make you smile," or "Miss Tai, the tea that we are going to drink is the taste of heaven."

And food! It was delicious as usual.

I love Taiwan! Good people, good tea and good food! I can't wait to go back there again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shui Xian from Taiwan

This is the first time that Floating Leaves is selling the Shui Xian varietal of tea from Taiwan. I didn't have a chance to meet the farmer who made the tea, but I was happy that I got a chance to see where it was grown.

The current farmer actually doesn't own the farm. I will call him Shui Xian farmer because I forgot to ask for his name! What had happened was that Mr. Den, who knows everyone, passed by the farm one day and noticed that the farm looked like it had been unattended for some time. He was curious and went to look for the owner of the tea farm. Den discovered that the owner has passed away.

One day Den visited the Shui Xian farmer and told him about the farm. The Shui Xian farmer told Den that it was such a waste for the tea fields to be unattended, and said that he would like to take care of the farm. Den was excited and told the farmer he would look for the children of the owner. He found them and told them the proposal. They were happy that someone else wanted to grow tea because they were not interested at all.

My friend, Mr. Tsai, told me that the Shui Xian farmer works very hard and he is a believer of organic farming. He doesn't use chemicals to kill weeds and uses organic methods to fertilize the tea trees.

If you are curious about what this Taiwanese Shui Xian tastes like, please visit Brett's (Black Dragon Tea Bar) BLOG ARTICLE, where he has kindly reviewed the tea.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pinglin Trip, Part Two

Mr. Tsai took me and Konghai to Farmer Chen's place. He was not back yet, so we sat down with his wife to have tea. She prepared at least seven different Baozhongs for me to try. Some tea came from half-jin packages, and she took some other teas out from those huge plastic bags. I didn't notice any marks on any of the bags. I have to say all the farmers and tea business people have incredible memories (perhaps they all drink tea every day?). Before I had a chance to tell her, she told me what those Baozhongs were. It was fun to try so many Baozhongs all at once. After I went through them twice, I was surprised at how light some of the competition winning teas were. My two favorite ones were one that didn't enter any competitions at all and one that was in the competition but didn't win any prize.

Later, Farmer Chen came back with some fresh tea leaves. He saw Konghai and gave him those leaves to play with. He sat down with us to try all the Baozhongs. Then he was distracted by Konghai. I think he likes Konghai a lot and he took a lot of pictures of him. For the whole tea tasting, they didn't make a single comment on what they thought of each tea. I knew that once again, I had to decide on which tea I considered to be the best for me to bring back to sell.

After all the Baozhongs, I asked if they had any aged teas. She came with two. I tasted them and liked the Buddha's Hand one better. When asked about the age, Farmer Chen said," ten, twenty years". I bursted out laughing and said,"there are 10 years of difference between what you just said". He smiled and looked at his wife for confirmation," I don't remember how old it is". I like that, at least it's very honest. I went to the jar where they stored the aged Buddha's Hand and smelled the tea. I saw the lid with the date! I showed them the lid and said," it's 18 years old!" Farmer Chen laughed and said," see? I was right!"

It was always nice to see Mr. and Mrs Chen. They were very easy going. Especially with him, he always had a smile on his face. Too bad I didn't have a chance to see him make tea this time. Most of the tea was already done for the season. I like the dedicated look on his face when he is making tea. There's always next year!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pinglin Trip, Part One

After my Dong Ding trip, my head was still thinking about Farmer Lin. I couldn't stop thinking about what he said to me, "When you drink a tea, can you tell if it is a good tea?" I was confused with what exactly I was looking for in the tea learning.

My friend, Mr. Tsai, met me and Konghai outside of the subway in Hsin Dien. Today he was going to take us to Pinglin. Before we went to see Farmer Chen, he told me that we were going to meet his friend, Mr. Den, and Den was going to take us to see the farmer who made our Shui Xian Oolong. We met Den at the Shui Xian farmer's farm. My heart got lighter because there was so much greenness in that area. Den was taking pictures when we arrived. He told us that the farmer was not at home at this moment. We would go to his house later to see if he was back. That was so Taiwanese-style. Friends or neighbors just show up at your door without an appointment. I sometimes miss that way of living.

Den told me that those tea plants in front of me were Shui Xian varietals and the farmer used organic farming methods to take care of the plants. They had really large size leaves compared to the more popular Taiwanese varietals.

Den told us we should go to another farmer's place to say hi (I didn't think he made any appointments with that farmer either). We showed up in front of a typical three-story apartment-type building. The farmer, his wife, three young babies, and the farmer's parents lived there together. When we showed up, they were all very friendly. Den told him that we would like to try some of his teas. He immediately put water on the stove. In no time, his mother came out with a huge plate of really juicy looking watermelon.

After the first pot of Jin Xuan varietal Baozhong, he asked me what I liked to drink. I told him if he had any Baozhong with a nice round mouth feel and yet heavy body. He left and came back with some different looking leaves. He told me that it was made from Da Yeh(Big Leaf) varietal. The tea liquid did have a heavier feel to it. Sometimes when I said I wanted something heavier, people would think I wanted it to be brewed heavier, too. I asked the farmer if Baozhong was like this 15 years ago. He smiled and said:"Oh no, tea at that time was even heavier than this." I asked him why he stopped making tea like that. He smiled again and told me that nobody wanted tea like that. I said, "that's not true. I am interested in that." In my brain, I was asking myself if tea at that time really tasted better. We said thank you and went on to see Farmer Chen.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dong Ding Trip, Day II

I woke up early today and decided to look around on my own. It was still misty and not too hot. The tea farms around the house looked pretty well taken care of. I thought those must be Lin's farms. When I looked closer, I found there were many different varietals of tea plants. I went through each farm and looked very closely at the shapes of the tea leaves. I didn't know that farmers in Dong Ding chose to grow many different varietals.

I ran back to Farmer Lin's house. His wife saw me and asked me to sit down and have breakfast. I told her that I was not hungry and asked him why there were many different tea plants, and asked him if he could show me how to identify each one of them. He said, "Why do you want to know the varietals? The point is to taste a tea and tell if the tea is good or not. Our ancestors brought us soft stem Oolong. It's the best." Later my mother and Konghai got up so we had breakfast together. Mrs Lin knows her husband well. She asked me if I needed to take anything for Konghai and she could help me. I knew she was going to show me the tea plants. I asked her if she could help me on the stroller.

I told Mrs. Lin that I will learn as much as I can and I am grateful that her husband spent so much time with us and showed us around. She showed me some tea plants, picked different leaves for me and told me what they were. On the way back to her house, I was thinking why I needed to tell the differences of tea leaves. I was thinking about his words: "When you drink a tea, can you tell if it is good?"

I asked them that I wanted to try a couple of teas that I had yesterday to confirm which one I liked the most. In the end, I was debating on two of the teas. Mrs Lin could tell. She told me," I think you should buy..." Mr. Lin said" You can't tell her which one she should buy. She has to learn how to experience a tea. She has to choose for herself." I didn't feel bad at all with what he said. He is right. I am the one who decides which tea tastes the best to me. After sampling the teas, he told me that he wanted to show me the neighborhood.

I was very happy to walk around. Farmer Lin took me to his own farm. He told me that there were not many farms left and that people were lazy. They went to do different things and tried to make money faster. We went to a hill and saw tea brushes here and there. He told me that those were wild teas and they made delicious tea. Many of the leaves were already bitten by bugs. We picked some leaves and they already had a very sweet aroma. Later we went by a farm that grows soft stem Oolong. We picked some leaves, too and I compared the fragrance between the soft stem and wild leaves. Both of them smelled very good, but the wild leaves had stronger aroma.

In the evening, I asked him if he had any aged tea. He told me yes and was thinking about whether or not he wanted to sell me any. He eventually sold me a bag without letting me taste it.

My mother doesn't really drink tea, but she told me that she could tell they had good tea. She asked me which one she should buy. I told her my opinions. She went to them and wanted to buy the one I said. Mr. Lin told her not to buy that tea. He said," Your level of tea learning is not as high. You wouldn't fully appreciate the quality of that tea. Your daughter can tell. That's why I sold her that tea. You should choose this one." He went to pull out a bag of tea and sold my mother a tea that he thought she would be able to appreciate.

After I left Dong Ding, I was felt pretty sad. One thing to make me sad was Dong Ding is not producing much tea anymore. People make tea elsewhere and call it Dong Ding. Another thing was that I felt Mr. Lin was living in the past. Even though he didn't teach me direct tea knowledge , he taught me tea spirit. I was thankful that I got to know him. Like what he said, it is an affinity to get to know a person and to get to share tea.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dong Ding Trip, Day One

Before I went up to Dong Ding mountain, I was very excited and nervous. I heard that the farmer I was going to meet was very "different".
I talked to him a couple of times to arrange the meeting time and meeting place. He sounded very nice.

He met my mother, Konghai, and me at a bus stop. He held Konghai and my backpack and told us to walk to his car. In the car, he listened to Chinese and Taiwanese music that are from 40 to 60 years ago. He told us that was "real" music; when one listens to it, one feels good. The rest of the music is trash and it will pollute our souls.
On the way to Dong Ding, I saw some tea farms. They felt a little neglected and it felt there was not much life in the area.

His wife greeted us and she already had lunch ready for us. After lunch, Farmer Lin took out a tea tray. That was the moment I was waiting for: to drink tea. He made a 2009 spring Dong Ding. I took a sip and said, "This is your tea. This is a flavor that only your tea can produce." He said nobody can make a tea flavor like this. Then he went on talking about people, society and life. I was very content to savor the tea and tried to grab a chance to ask him about tea.
After the fourth infusion, he told us it was time to go see scenery. It was only the fourth infusion! I couldn't leave! I told him that he didn't need to trouble himself. My only interest was to drink tea. But he didn't listen so we went into his car. He took us to see a waterfall. It was very beautiful there. He was very nice to bring us some homegrown peaches and plums. Afterwards, we climbed some stairs and reached to a very narrow point. I saw a rope and remembered that my friend told me that the farmer made him climb the rope to see a different view. He asked us to climb up there. My mother said no. Oh, by the way, my high school friend was there, too. She didn't want to climb up there either. I thought if I didn't climb, he would be so disappointed, so I went. I saw another waterfall up there and it was quite a view. After I got off the rope, I was still a little bit shaky.
In the evening, his wife brewed me five different Dong Ding teas. He told me to savor and feel each tea so that I can decide what I like. He went on talking about how humans only care about money and the evil that's happening in the whole world. I listened to him and at the same time tried to focus on the tea and remembered how they were different from each other.

I was happy to have that much Dong Ding and was grateful that they were so generous. I went to bed with a mission that I had to talk to him about tea the next day.