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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New ShanLinXi and Lishan

Christmas has been busy. Thank you all for supporting my business, either ordering from the website or coming in for the new teas. I hope you have all had a chance to try out the new winter teas and enjoy them.

It had been so busy for me that I actually haven't had much time to enjoy these new teas myself. Yesterday, I finally had some quiet moments at the shop and the sun was out! I felt so happy to sit at the tea table and enjoy the new teas with the warm sun on my face.

I started with the new winter ShanLinXi. A customer showed up to taste the tea with me. We had five great infusions of this tea. It has a wonderful citrus note blended with a sweet, floral bouquet. There is a tartness in the tea that is balanced by the citrus note and sweetness. On the fifth infusion, the tea still tasted strong. I couldn't stop smelling the wet leaves while I drank the tea, they smelled so good!

Then we moved on to the Lishan. Many customers and I have been very satisfied with this tea. It's a solid high mountain tea with a smooth and strong body. The aftertaste of this tea lingers for quite a while. We made six good infusions out of this tea and decided to take a break. I sat there and enjoy the wonderful bouquet lingering in my mouth with a very nice Hui Gan (a sweetness that attaches in the throat area after one swallows the tea).

In the afternoon, two tea friends showed up, and I was very excited to tell them that I had a great tea session today with the ShanLinXi (I have had great tea sessions with Lishan). One of them is a big ShanLinXi fan and he told me he noticed when the weather is drier, ShanLinXi tastes better. Well, it was the first day of sunshine after who knows how many days of rain. Or, is it that my feelings of ease and peace helped me to better enjoy the tea?

Anyway, I will share more of my tasting notes for the new winter Oolongs in the next couple of posts. Thank you again for all of your support this year. I look forward to sharing more tasty teas with you in the coming year. Enjoy your teas and have a great 2011!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Winter Oolong Just Arrived!

It's always very exciting to see boxes of new tea get delivered to the tea shop! Our Pinglin Baozhongs, Lishan, Alishan, DaYuLing, and ShanLinXi have arrived!

I have had fun tasting teas these past couple of days, but have noticed that some of the teas haven't opened up all the way yet. Throughout the years of importing tea from Taiwan, I have noticed some tea takes a couple of weeks to open up and some tea will go through changes of flavor for about a month before they settle.

These past two days feel like so long for me because I am so impatient with some of the teas! I want them to open up right away! I know some of you have been waiting for the new season's tea to show up and I simply can't wait to share them with you. The good news is that our tea buyer had very good things to say about the high mountain teas, which makes me want to experience these teas at their best even more.

Some customers came by the shop and had the chance to taste some of the new teas with me. They all said that the tea tasted very good. One customer who has been very into high mountain oolongs for years told me that this is possibly the best season over the past several seasons.
I have updated new teas on the website. If you can make it to the shop, please come taste some of the teas with me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

New Winter Oolong Will Arrive Soon!

I have been praying for a good winter Oolong harvest since October. Due to the changing climate, there were typhoons in Taiwan in October!

In early November, I talked to our tea buyer in Taiwan and he said the tea was not good. It was too watery and did not have enough substance. Every time I heard bad news like this, my heart sank. He said we should wait and see if better teas would show up later in the month.

I guess my patience paid off this time. We talked again last week and he was very excited to tell me that he had found some good High Mountain Oolongs. He took some of the teas he purchased for us and tried them at home. He wrote me an email this morning and stated that the tea tastes very good!

The High Mountain Oolong is on its way to Seattle. This season, we will have Alishan, Lishan, ShanLinXi and DaYuLing to share with you. I know many of you have been waiting a few seasons for us to get a good ShanLinXi and DaYuLing and I think you will be happy with what we have to offer this season. It's estimated to arrive in the middle of December and I can hardly wait to taste the teas with you! I will post more news and tasting notes shortly after the new teas arrive.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Taiwan Shui Xian

The new Taiwan Shui Xian is ready; it's finally back at Floating Leaves! Compared to the usual Chinese Shui Xian, it's much less oxidized and is a moderate fired oolong. It's a fun tea to taste and to learn about the differences that a varietal can have depending on where it's grown.

This particular Taiwan Shui Xian offers a satisfying hearty roasting note, and a grain-like taste. Come taste it with me or you can order it online at www.floatingleaves.com.

Our new winter Baozhong is scheduled to arrive in Seattle within two weeks. Our buyer in Taiwan is sourcing other Taiwanese Oolongs for us as well, and we should have those within the next month.

Well, it's Thanksgiving time again. Wherever you are, be safe, eat lots of good food and drink tons of good tea!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm Back! Floating Leaves Tea Returns to Its Normal Business Hours

I am back to the tea shop and I am very happy to see some of you coming to the shop these past few days. I always enjoy drinking tea with you.

Some of the winter Taiwanese Oolongs have been harvested and some are still being made. In the next couple of days, I will be able to give you updates on our upcoming winter Oolong selections.

Stop by if you have chance. Let's have some tea together!

Our hours are:

Wednesday to Sunday: 11am - 6pm

Friday, October 29, 2010

2011 Taiwan Tea Tour

The itinerary for 2011 Taiwan Tea Tour is up. Please check it out:

We are going to visit Farmer Chen in Pinglin to learn about Baozhong tea, Farmer Zhang to learn some basic tips for Tieguanyin and oolong tea roasting, and Farmer Zhen for Alishan High Mountain Oolong. Mr. Zhou Yu of the famous Wistaria Teahouse in Taipei will be doing a tea talk for us, too. Be ready for lots of tea activities and lots of delicious food!

There will only be 6 guests for next year's trip; I want to make sure that everyone gets a lot of personal attention. Space is limited, so please let me know if you are interested in coming. If there are any unique activities, especially tea-related ones, that you would like to see added to the tour, please contact me privately and I will see if I can accommodate your wishes. I am looking forward to having you on my trip.

Also, a quick reminder that Floating Leaves Tea will be closed from November 1st to 10th. All of the tea orders that are placed during this time will be sent out on the 11th.

Lishan Tea is here and it's delicious. I hope I will have a chance to taste it with you before I leave. The organic Oolong is finally here,too! It will be on the website shortly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Teas! Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding and Lishan

Just as it starts to get cooler in Seattle, a package of tea has arrived at the perfect moment! I opened the package and couldn't wait to taste the Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding that I ordered.

It was raining outside when I brewed this tea and I was happy to smell the warmth of its charcoal fire. As I was smelling it, a nice fruit note showed up. Ah, a nice typical Dong Ding Tea smell. The tea is full bodied, but soft, too. The charcoal note lingers throughout every infusion, and it feels so warm and satisfying. I will be drinking this tea a lot during the winter!

What if you don't really like roasted Oolongs? Don't worry. There is a delicious Lishan High Mountain Oolong for you. You may also find that you like both teas! The dry leaves of this Lishan smell like a yummy fruit. The first infusion was pleasant, but makes you wait anxiously for the bolder and fuller infusions to come. The tea blooms beautifully in the second infusion, where it is floral, fruity, and buttery! I was so excited with this change that I did the following three infusions way too fast. The notes are strong and the aftertaste is one of the best parts of this tea: it lingers for quite a long time. After I was done with these two teas, I had a very happy tea buzz................... Stop by for some of our new teas; supplies are very limited.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Grilled Shrimp with Wenshan Baozhong

Here is one more recipe that uses Baozhong Tea. This one is very easy to make (even I can do it!) so please try it. The aroma and bouquet of the Baozhong will show up after you eat the shrimp. It's a great dish to serve as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Grilled Shrimp with Baozhong

-Brew Baozhong tea and let it cool down to room temperature.
-Peel the shrimp (keep the head), butterfly the shrimp and twist it from the back.
-Arrange the shrimp in a shallow dish and pour the tea broth over it. Let it marinate for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
-Before grilling, pat-dry the shrimp and season it with salt and pepper.
-Grill until it turns pink. Do not overcook.
-Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Taiwan Tea Photos

I had a great time this past weekend at the NW Tea Festival. I was very happy to see some tea friends that I haven't seen for quite a long time, like Jason Chen(C.C. Fine Tea) and Brett Boynton (Black Dragon Tea Bar). I was also very happy to see many of the people that had joined my Taiwan Tea Tour and had showed up for my presentation! The presentation went well. Thank you all for coming.

I also want to thank Jennifer Sauer (Bon Teavant) for turning some of the photos from a part of our Spring tea tour into a short but terrific video slideshow. Here is the link. It is pretty neat and shows some of the fields where our tea comes from, as well as how some different types of Taiwan oolong is processed.


*Dong Ding photos, Lishan photos and part of PingLin/Oriental Beauty photos are from Jennifer Sauer. Alishan photos and part of the PingLin photos are from Dance Smith.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tea Presentation at NW Tea Festival

This year at the NW Tea Festival, I will be presenting a tea talk about major tea regions in Taiwan with professional photographer Jennifer Sauer. She will show her photos and videos that she took in Taiwan as well. Participants will get to taste the teas that I'll talk about, accompanied by some interesting photos of the land, tea farms and farmers that we met in Taiwan. The presentation is from 2pm to 3pm on Saturday, October 2nd. Hope you will be able to join us!

Later on that day from 4pm to 5pm, I will be doing a tea tasting that is limited to 10 people. I will talk about how an oolong should be aged and give some basic tips for a quality aged oolong. If you are interested in this one, you will need to sign up when you are at the tea festival (first-come, first-serve). Looking forward to seeing some of you there!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea and Cooking

If you have been coming to the shop often enough, you have probably noticed that I love to drink and talk about tea all day long. Then the conversation will switch back and forth between food and tea.

It's been a while since I have had the idea to put two of my favorite things together and to share my experiences. But can I cook? Not really. Two years ago, however, I was lucky to meet Maggie Blake. Maggie was born in Taiwan and trained as a chef in California. We hit it off right away. Over time, we talked about our love of tea and cooking and talked about collaborating on a project related to both of our passions.

It is our new adventure to work together and share my love of tea and her love of cooking.
We will explore Taiwanese Oolongs region by region, and also post our delicious recipes for cooking with tea. Enjoy!

The first Taiwanese tea we will use is a Baozhong tea from Pinglin. In my next post, I will be covering my tea experiences in Pinglin and the basic historical facts for this tea. But first, I wanted to share a recipe with you while I still have it fresh in my memory. Please give us feedback to let us know how this turns out for you when you have the chance to try it out.

Cod with 13 year old aged Baozhong(serving two people):

-1 small onion, sliced
-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1 stick of celery, sliced
-1 cup of stock (chicken or vegetable)
-1 Tb of aged Baozhong

-Saute onion for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high heat.

-Add garlic and celery; saute until all the aroma comes out and the onion is translucent.

-Add the stock and tea. Let it boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.

-Drain the sauce, discard the vegetables and tea, and set the sauce aside.

You can use Black Cod, Halibut or Sea Bass (8oz to 10oz fillet). Season the fish with salt and pepper. Sear and cook until the fish is done.

Side Dish:
-One package of Udon noodles
-10 to 15 sweet peas (split them into half lengthwise)
-2 green onions, bias cut
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-5 shitake mushrooms, sliced
-1 Tb of soy sauce
-1/2 Ts of sesame oil
- Salt and Pepper

-Bring a pot of water to a boil.

-In a pan, saute the shitake mushrooms for a couple of seconds.

-Add garlic, then the peas.

-Put the package of udon noodles in the pot of boiling water and cook for a minute. Remove the noodles and put them into the pan.

-Add soy sauce and mix it into the vegetables. Add additional seasonings if desired. Add the green onions and sesame oil. Mix and toss all of the ingredients well.

Before serving the dish, put the sauce back into the small sauce pan and heat it up. Adjust seasoning if desired. Thicken the sauce with butter (cut into small pieces, add them slowly to the sauce and whisk constantly to emulsify the sauce).

To serve:
Place the noodles and fish nicely on the plate, drizzle some sauce on the them and place the sauce on the side. We finished the dinner with a cup of Jin Xuan Oolong and some green salad. It was very satisfying.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Floating Leaves Tea New Business Hours

Floating Leaves Tea shop will have new business hours starting September 19th because my son is going to be starting school!

You can also purchase our tea online: www.floatingleaves.com. Not all of our products appear on the website, so please feel free to contact me by phone or email with any of your questions.

New Business Hours:

Wednesdays to Sundays: 11am to 6pm
Mondays and Tuesdays: Closed

Thank you for your continued support. The extra time I have off will also allow me to source more unique products, and more tasty Taiwanese oolongs!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Baozhong and High Mountain Tea

I would like to thank all of you for supporting Floating Leaves Tea. Many of our 2010 Spring Oolongs are already sold out! This is beyond my expectations.

My inventory of Farmer's Choice Baozhong sold out quickly, but luckily, I was able to get a new batch from the same farmer. It tastes fresh and has his characteristic taste and scent. I will be putting this on the website pretty soon.

All of our High Mountain Oolongs are sold out, too. I am contacting some tea friends in Taiwan to see if I can get some more delicious high mountain tea in. When I receive news about getting more of these teas, I will post an update on the blog.

Meanwhile, come in to taste our Dong Dings, Jin Xuan, a new batch of Oriental Beauty, or come and taste what I have been roasting!

I also want to let you know that Floating Leaves Tea will be closed for the Labor Day weekend, September 5th and September 6th. Whatever you will be doing and wherever you may be, please stay safe and remember to find time for a good cup of tea! Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Organic Teas in Taiwan

During my trip to Taiwan this past May, I encountered more organic tea and organic tea farming publications in Taiwan than ever before. I learned that some Buddhist Organizations are pushing for organic farming movements in Taiwan, too. They work with the Taiwan Tea Reform Institute(茶葉改良場) and the Council of Agriculture to encourage more farmers to become certified organic producers.

The publication that I read is from the Taiwan Formosa Organic Association or FOA (臺灣寶島有機農業發展協會). There are some wonderful articles on farmers' dedications to organic farming. They are very touching and inspiring. For example, they featured one Farmer Lee who is already 75 years old. His family grew vegetables. At the age of 60, he was introduced by a friend to volunteer at a local temple. With time, he noticed that many of the monks had some health issues. He went to ask a doctor friend about their condition and the doctor friend told him that too many soybean products and pesticides can cause the symptoms that the monks had. The volunteer who took care of the vegetables at the temple worked very hard to make sure that all of the vegetables are "beautiful and big," so he used lots of pesticides for that. After Farmer Lee discovered that, he realized how important it is to do healthy organic farming and went back to school to learn about organic farming. He came to the US once and discovered that in America, 25% of all pesticides are used in growing just cotton. After he went back to Taiwan, he worked very hard and finally discovered a way to control the insects attacking cotton without dangerous pesticides. His daughter also joined him and worked on their organic cotton farm.

While I was in Taiwan, I received a tea gift from a dear friend of mine. The tea is a transitional organic tea. It is certified and sponsored by an organization called Ci-Xin (慈心). When I first brewed the tea in a gaiwan, I really didn't like it. One day, I tried it out using the "grandpa style" (just toss some tea in a cup or bowl and add hot water). The tea had way more body and flavor!
Three days ago, I received another organic tea sample from a friend. After I tried it, I thought it would be a good product to carry and to share with my customers. I called my friend last night to inquire about the tea and he told me that unfortunately, the tea is sold out! I told him that I really want to support organic tea from Taiwan and it would be great for our American friends to have more access to our organic teas. After 5 minutes of consideration, he told me that he would keep a bit of the sold-out tea for Floating Leaves Tea so that more people could have a chance to try it. I was so grateful! This tea is lightly oxidized and my friend roasted it a bit. The first infusion has a yummy roasted note and then it reminds me of the Mi Xiang Oolong (蜜香烏龍-Honey Fragrant Oolong).
My friend said that organic tea farming is more risky to produce. The product's taste is more difficult to stabilize and the yield is lower than non-organic products. It also takes more work and costs more to produce organic tea than non-organic ones. Because of these factors, a lot of farmers don't want to make organic lightly oxidized Oolong, especially since there is already so much demand for regular, lightly oxidized teas. So far, most farmers are making organic teas using black tea or more highly oxidized Oolong.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Annual Sale at Floating Leaves Tea

Floating Leaves Tea has been at our current location for two years now. Thank you all for coming into the shop and sharing a cup of tea with me. It's always fun and a pleasure to drink some tea with you. For those who can't come in the shop and have been ordering tea through our website, I want to thank you for finding us and for your continuous support. I hope sometime in the future, we will be able to meet for tea.

We will be celebrating our anniversary with our annual sale. Starting this Sunday, August 8th and ending two weeks later on the 22nd, all of our current season's tea and teaware will be 15% off. Take advantage of this great opportunity to stock up on your favorite teas. Our Farmer's Choice Baozhong, 2nd place Baozhong, Alishan Din Hu, and ShanLinXi are all very low in stock, so get some before they run out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jin Xuan - Milk Oolong

Many people have asked me about Milk Oolong (AKA Jin Xuan oolong). The Jin Xuan varietal of tea plants has been said to carry a natural milk flavor. At least 15 years ago (or longer), I had my first taste of Milk Oolong in Taiwan. I remember it was special and that I liked it.

A tea friend told me that there was one year that Milk Oolong won a very special and highly-regarded prize in a Taiwanese tea competition, after which, more and more people asked for this kind of tea. Some dishonest merchants and farmers saw that they could make a lot of money by blending some milk flavoring with the tea. Newspapers and the TV news reported on the many fake Milk Oolong teas and over time, people forgot about this tea.

Nowadays in Taiwan, I rarely hear people talking about Milk Oolong, and when I do, it is usually not a local resident that is looking for this tea. I have asked many tea farmers and tea people why Jin Xuan can't produce the natural milk flavor anymore. No one seems to know the answer to this question.

In the past two years, some customers have brought over various Milk Oolongs for me to try. It has been very disappointing to find such strong milk additives in those tea samples. I am not trying to prove that all Milk Oolong is bad, since I did have some good experiences with it in the past. Before you purchase one, you might want to ask the tea merchant if it's a blended one, and if she is honest, she will tell also teach you how to tell the difference between a genuine Milk Oolong and a fake one with milk flavoring.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Iced Teas

Finally, summer has arrived in Seattle! I can't tell you how excited I am! I just learned that the east coast has been baking for many days now. Many Chinese people believe that drinking hot tea can cool a person down. If you disagree, how about having some nice cold teas on a hot summer day?

I am addicted to my Aged Baozhong, especially when it's cold brewed. I put some leaves in a glass jar, put some room temperature water in it and waited until the liquid turned brown. That's when I know it's ready. It's fruity, sweet, and refreshing. Throughout the day, I will keep adding water as I drink the cold-brewed tea and it tastes very good this way.

Lots of green teas are also suitable for cold brew, or you can quickly brew up some hot tea and pour it over a cup of ice cubes. They are all very thirst-quenching and refreshing.

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!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Muzha tea growing region

I went up to Muzha with my friend Jennifer. She was assigned to do a report on the tea houses in the Muzha area. This area is best known for Taiwanese-style Tie Guan Yin oolong, although other types of tea are produced here as well.

The weather was nice while we were there (which means no rain and not too hot). It was really nice to walk around. There were a lot of trees, flowers and tea houses. There were sounds of cicadas, birds, frogs and unknown insects. We would also occasionally hear Buddhist chanting coming from a distance. One of Taipei's most famous temples, Zhinan Temple, is located partway up the mountain towards Muzha.

An organic tea farm

There are also hundreds of tea houses in this area. It's close to Taipei city, so the area attract lots of business from local tourists during the evenings and weekends. At one of the tea houses we visited, there were at least 50 tea booths outside for people to enjoy tea!

Part of a tea house in Muzha

We also went by some tea farms and were really happy to see them doing what looks like organic tea farming. There is increasing awareness of organic tea farming in Taiwan. I have some brochures about organic farming supported by the private sector. When I get a chance to read it, I will translate and pass on the information here.

I'm coming back to Seattle soon and the Spring tea will arrive shortly after. It was a good season overall and I'm anxious to share it with everyone. See you soon!

Another organic tea farm in Muzha

View of Taipei

Thursday, May 20, 2010


A view in Pinglin

Today, my friend Jennifer and I went to Pinglin to taste spring Baozhongs. My friend Mr. Tsai was very kind to meet us at the subway station and drive us up to Pinglin.

Mrs. Chen, the Baozhong farmer's wife, was there waiting for us. As soon as she saw us, she started to heat water on the stove. We tried five different Baozhongs first and then we switched to two aged Buddha Hands and three aged Baozhongs. So much good tea to drink! Farmer Chen came back from picking up his competition tea and joined us for tea. Mrs. Chen was busy, but she made the time to cook us a delicious lunch.

The delicious meal by Mrs. Chen

After lunch, we continued to drink more Baozhong tea. I decided on an Honorable Mention Baozhong, Farmer's Choice Baozhong and I will also bring back an aged Baozhong and Buddha's Hand oolong. My friend, Jennifer Sauer, is a professional photographer and she took a video of me choosing the teas with the farmer. We will share the clips when they are ready.

Tasting Baozhong

Unloading Baozhong Tea

After our tea purchasing, we said goodbye to the Chens and Mr. Tsai took us for a brief tour of Pinglin. It was a great day and the view was beautiful. I can't wait to share the tea I chose and more of my stories with you. The teas are quite interesting and I am excited about the quality and taste, and thankful that the weather and growing conditions have been good to Taiwan this season.

Tea leaves waiting for bugs to attack - Oriental Beauty Oolong

Friday, May 14, 2010

Taiwan Tea Tour - last notes on a great trip

We went to Taipei Tea Association yesterday. The chairman of the association did a talk on the history of Taiwan teas and presented to us a slide show. We had the chance to sample five Taiwanese teas and learn about their characteristics and the regions they came from. People asked questions and I thought it was great to wrap up our tour by learning about the main regions of Taiwanese teas.

I am very grateful to the people who joined the tour and for their openness in giving me a chance to show them what I love about Taiwan; the people, the tea and the food. I was especially grateful to the farmers, tea educators, their families and to my friends who came out to help me on this tour. My words cannot fully express my thanks for their hospitality and generosity.

I am heading over to Dong Ding tomorrow and will start to source some great Spring Oolongs to bring back to Seattle. I've already had the chance to try several high mountain teas, as well as several Baozhongs, and I am excited to say that I think this season has tea with fuller tastes than season's past. I'll keep you all updated over the next few weeks, but since my internet connection will not be constant, please excuse delays in updating.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pinglin Trip

Today we went to Pinglin to visit farmer Chen. His wife was waiting for us in their tea shop and told us Mr. Chen was busy and would join us shortly. She heated up some water and offered some fresh Baozhong tea to drink. It was quite delicious and I thought the quality was better than last winter's Baozhong.

Then she took us to see their spring Baozhong competition tea entry. Today was the last day to submit competition tea. There were not many farmers there, but we still got to see how they packed the tea and such.

For lunch, we went to have a wonderful tea meal feast. We all enjoyed the food and stuffed ourselves full on the delicious dishes.

We walked back to farmer Chen's house and he was waiting for us. He greeted everyone with a smile and took us to his tea farm. It was drizzling today so we didn't get to see any tea being picked. Farmer Chen was very kind to explain to us the tea varietals and the process of picking tea.

Then he took us to his house and he explained to us the process of making Baozhong tea. When I get back to Seattle, I will add more details on this part.

We returned to their tea shop and enjoyed many more pots of delicious Baozhong.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Alishan Trip

We took the high speed train from Taipei to Chiayi. Farmer Zhan and his son in law were already at the station there waiting for us to arrive. It was very nice to see their smiles again!

Alishan high mountain tea was harvested 2 weeks earlier than usual this season, so we didn't get to see the harvesting. However, the farmers were very kind to show us how the harvesting, oxidizing and roasting are done.

We were also fed this delicious vegetarian meals!

Preparing the tea for roasting

Oxidizing the tea

An Alishan tea farm

Rolling the oolong balls

View from the train

Next stop: Pinglin and Baozhong tea. More stories and photos to come.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Taiwan Trip: Wistaria and Zhou Zu

The Floating Leaves Tea tour group has safely arrived in Taiwan! Today, we went to visit Mr. Zhou Yu and his wife Sophie at the famous Wisteria teahouse. I love having tea at Wisteria, it's a beautiful place. After walking in the heat and the busy energy of Taipei streets, sitting there brought some calm and quietness to us.

Mr. Zhou Yu did a special tea talk for us. When I discussed timing with him, he originally said the talk would be around 30 minutes and then we'd have an open questions session. After he talked for about 10 minutes, I knew he'd have much more to talk about. He really got into it and we had a special opportunity to hear a tea expert give us a thorough education! You know the feeling when you sit down, have tea, and start some conversations. You know when you are going to have a good time and then time no longer controls the agenda; the subject flows freely.

Mr. Zhou Yu touched on the subject of tea and culture, how he does gongfu cha, organic tea and more. I will share with you some of what he said when I have more time. At the end, a participant asked what tea he drinks every day, and he said either an aged Dong Ding or an aged Puer. He said when he drinks a tea, he is not looking for a particular flavor. He is looking for how he feels after he drinks a tea. He said a good aged puer can make him feel calm. Then the participant continued by asking why a good aged puer is so expensive. We really can't afford to drink such a tea on a daily basis. Zhou Yu smiled and took out a canister of a loose puer that he had purchased in Hong Kong in 1994. We all felt very grateful that he shared that with us. The tea was very clean and soft and it made me perspire after three cups. He told us we don't need to buy super expensive aged puer right now. Start to buy some good quality raw puer and age it. Then we will have good and inexpensive aged puer to drink later!

I thanked him and his wife for spending so much time with the group. They said that since we had come all the way from the states, that's what a host should do. That's one of the things I like most about Taiwan, the people's sincerity and generosity....

Tomorrow, we head out to Alishan to visit with some farmers up there and to see how this season's Alishan high mountain oolong has turned out. I'll be out of contact for a few days, but expect more updates and some pictures soon! Don't forget that I'll be out of the teashop for this month, but Floating Leaves is still open on the weekends. We will continue to fill and ship your online and phone orders once a week as well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Oolong

I talked to some tea friends in Taiwan this week and I was quite happy to hear that they all think this spring's tea quality will generally be higher than this past winter's. Last season, I was not able to carry several types of high mountain teas, including Shanlinxi or Dayuling, because their quality wasn't what I expected from those teas.

I asked the farmers about the temperature variations that have been happening frequently over the past month and if that would affect the quality of the tea. They said at least there wasn't a drought (like in SW China) and the tea plants are yielding more than last season. They expect a strong harvest.

That's good news. I am optimistic that I will find some great Oolongs during next month's trip!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Floating Leaves Tea - May Schedule

The Taiwan Tea Tour is coming up very soon and I am really excited about it! We will have a lot of fun together and we will be sure to take a lot of pictures and to share our new tea knowledge with everyone. If you have any special tea questions, please remember to email them to me soon. After the tour, I will be staying in Taiwan to do this Spring season's tea purchases. I will do my best to update you on Taiwanese tea news while I am there.

While I am in Taiwan during the month of May, the Floating Leaves Tea shop will be open on Saturdays and Sundays only, from 11am to 7pm. Your internet tea orders will be shipped once a week. Thank you for your understanding and I look forward to sharing some delicious Spring Oolongs with you after I return.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Cooking with Tea

Here is one of the cooking with tea recipes that I promised to give you in my last post. If you get a chance to try it, please let me know how it turns out. Enjoy!

Braised Pork Belly infused with Muzha Tieguanyin and Savoy Cabbage

-Cabbage, take out the core and separate the leaves. Blanch them in tea (use the tea after you make 3 cups for the braised liquid with salt). Set aside when it's done

-Pork belly or side pork 1 pound (long and flat)

-6 Tb soy sauce

-2 star anise

-2 Tb rice wine

-2 tspn sugar

-1/3 cup and 2 Tb Muzha Tieguanyin tea leaves


1) Cut pork into 3 pieces, placed them on a plate and marinate in soy sauce with broken-up star anise (flavor will easily release after they're broken) for about 30 minutes

2) Pat dry the pork and put the rest of the soy sauce and star anise into a sauce pan. Add rice wine, sugar, and tea (brew the tea with 3 cups of hot water first for 3-5 minutes, need strong tea, but try not to make it bitter)

3) Pan fry the pork in hot oil with medium-heat. Fry until it is crispy and has a nice, brown color. Pat dry and then add to the sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 50 minutes uncovered. Turn the meat once a while. The sauce will also reduce when the meat is done. The sauce should have the consistency of syrup. If not just add cornstarch to thicken it.

4) Slice the pork about 1/4 inches thick (try to fan it out). Arrange cabbage leaves on the plate and then place the pork on top of it. Drizzle the yummy sauce on top of the meat and leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.