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

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.