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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year and Many Thanks to All of Our Tea Friends!

It has been a great year. It is always fun to hang out and enjoy tea together, and I have also been delighted to meet some new tea drinkers and share their excitement when they discover their right tea! I want to thank many of you who order tea from the Floating Leaves Tea website and for all of the sweet notes you have written me. I hope I will have the chance to meet you soon and drink some tea together. I take a lot of pride in and work hard to select the best tea and the best value to share with tea lovers, so my humble shop and I are very grateful for your continued support. I am glad that you tea lovers are a part of my shop and the tea culture that I try to share and grow here.

I want to mention that Floating Leaves Tea has a new "Thank You For Referral Program." When you refer your family or friends to Floating Leaves Tea, please ask them to mention your name, or better yet, have them include your email or phone number so that I can contact you. You will receive a $10 store credit that is good towards your next purchase. For internet customers, I will contact you first to give you a code that you can enter into your shopping cart on your next purchase. Please have some patience with the system and me as we are still in the testing phase for this new program.

Some goals of mine for this coming year? I hope to spend more time in Taiwan and learn more about tea. I would also like to work with some more tea farmers to produce custom-roasted teas for us. And of course, I want to drink more good tea with everyone!

Some goals that are not tea related? Stay healthy, continue to have fun with my son and my friends, and hopefully get to enjoy a real two-week vacation sometime this year.

Thank you again for your support! May 2012 be filled with happiness, good health, prosperity and good tea for all of you!

Friday, December 02, 2011

New Winter Baozhong - Winter 2011 High Mountain Oolong Update

Today there were brief moments of sunshine and it was a great moment for Baozhong tea. The new winter Baozhong crop arrived about a week ago and its flavor has already opened up much more compared to a week ago. Baozhong to me is a delightful tea. It has a clean taste and a wonderful lingering aftertaste. With some sunshine on my face, it's just perfect!

I talked to our tea buyer two days ago and he was satisfied with this season's high mountain oolong. He said some farmers chose to oxidize this season's tea a bit more so the tea has a good, solid tea broth. He also mentioned this winter's tea can stand up to brewing much more than this past spring's tea (leaves were very tender due to a colder spring). He is especially excited with the winter DaYuLing and I can't wait to taste the tea with all of you! Our tea buyer was also able to find a good Buddha Hand as well. This Buddha Hand was literally sold out when he found it, but with a little begging, we were able to get some. All of the new high mountain oolongs are scheduled to arrive in about two weeks. Please check out our website for updates: www.floatingleavestea.com

Then how about roasted oolongs? We are hoping to be able to taste some soon and to have them in stock sometime in January. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Basic Taiwanese Oolong Making Process Part III

Part III and the last few steps of the oolong making process are:

-Kill Green: After the tea leaves have been oxidized enough, tea makers have to stop the tea from further oxidizing. They use high heat to stop the components in the leaves from oxidizing. The temperature to do this is around 170 degrees (celcius), but I have also heard that some people use more than 200 degrees. Heat will also get rid of more moisture in the leaves and help with forming the particular fragrance of an oolong. Through this process, tea makers want to get rid of the "greeness" in an oolong and bring out the real "tea fragrance."

-Shaping, Pressing and Rolling: After Killing Green, the tea leaves are put into the pressing machine to break the cells. This process also helps to shape the tea. If it's Baozhong tea, the leaves just need to be dried, then it will become Baozhong Mao Cha. For rolled style oolongs, the tea leaves will be put inside a piece of cloth that is tightened up into a ball and rolled between two plates. For a high mountain oolong, the leaves will be rolled around 8 times to get the shape that a tea maker is looking for.

-Drying: After tea makers get the shape they want for an oolong, they will put the tea leaves into the drying machine. After the drying process has been completed, tea leaves will have a water content around 4 to 5 percent. At this point, tea is called Mao Cha. Nowadays, consumers can go directly to farmers to purchase tea, so a lot of people are buying and drinking Mao Cha.

-Sorting, Roasting, and Matching tea: When Taiwan tea was produced mainly for export, tea farmers would make Mao Cha and tea vendors and merchants would purchase the Mao Cha and sort, roast and match different crops of tea into the final product that they were looking to create. Sorting is done to get rid of excess tea stems, broken leaves and old leaves. The tea is exposed to the air as it is sorted, so some moisture will get back into tea. Tea vendors will roast the tea a bit to get rid of that moisture. A lot of times, tea buyers will ask for certain teas to be roasted, so it will be the vendor's job to roast the tea as requested. For a big wholesaler, they will match different crops of tea to get the signature taste for the company's brand.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Basic Taiwanese Oolong Making Process Part II

-Indoor Withering: After the oxidation process has started from outdoor withering, farmers and tea makers will move the tea leaves indoors and spread them on bamboo baskets to "rest." While the leaves are resting, water in the leaves will evaporate through stoma (pores) on the back and the edges of the leaves. Due to the loss of some water, the leaf cells have also lost some pressure. Tea leaves will look like they've started to "lose some life" (imagine what it looks like if you leave some spinach on the counter for a couple of hours). Then tea makers will go through each tray and stir the leaves. Stirring is to help the water content in the tea stems and veins travel throughout the leaves evenly. One can't stir the leaves either too lightly or too strongly. Too lightly and the moisture won't travel through the leaves evenly; too strongly and the veins will break, causing the water content to get stuck. Tea will have a higher chance of tasting bitter or astringent if the water gets stuck.

-Big Stirring and Resting: Though the previous process, the tea leaves are supposed to lose the right amount of moisture. The process of Big Stirring is to help the leaves maintain the remaining water so that all of the "components" in the leaves will function properly and will transform with oxygen. This Big Stirring has to be heavy enough to break lots of veins so that the tea leaves will not continue to lose its water. At this point, tea has a huge floral bouquet and the leaves feel soft and a bit slippery. Traditionally, one should be able to see the red edges on the leaves at this point. After Big Stirring, tea makers lay the leaves back on the trays again and let the tea rest and continue to oxidize. This might take about 4 hours.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Basic Taiwanese Oolong Making Process

Here is Part 1 on the basic processing for Taiwanese Oolongs. I hope this can help you to understand how an Oolong is made and bring you to deepen your appreciation for these amazing teas.

-Tea Picking: For Taiwanese Oolongs, the standard picking is two leaves and a bud. For a traditional style Oolong, producers want the leaves to be mature enough. Leaf maturity is judged by the ratio of the two open leaves. According to the Tea Reform Institute, the perfect set for picking is for the first open leaf to be 70% the size of the second open leaf. Traditionally, the best tea picking time is around 10am because the dew has just evaporated from the tea leaves. Nowadays, not many farmers follow this practice anymore. Tea pickers are now paid by the weight of the leaves they pick (and sometimes they are paid on a per-day basis) so they want to start as early as possible. In a lot of farms, you will see someone with a broom hitting the tea bushes gently before the picking starts to get rid of the remaining dew on the leaves.

-Outdoor Withering: After enough fresh picked leaves are collected, farmers will lay the leaves out on big pieces of canvas outdoors. The duration for this process varies depending on the weather, but is usually around 30 minutes. I heard from a farmer that the perfect condition for this process is sunshine filtering through clouds. I always thought a bright and sunny day would be more perfect, but he said bright sun can "burn" the leaves. The purpose of this process is to let some of the water evaporate from the leaves (走水, "water walking") so that some of the bad smell (臭青, "stinking green") will evaporate, too. Due to the loss of some water, the cell membrane weakens and oxidation kicks in. One can smell some sort of light floral fragrance during this process. I asked some farmers how they know when this process is done and they all said it's done when a light floral note shows up, and they also know it by the look of the leaves. The first open leaf loses its shininess on the surface and the leaves feel soft.

In my next post, we'll talk about the next two steps of the process. Look for it soon!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chinese Tea Vocabulary

I just added the Chinese vocabulary/characters for "The Basic Process of Taiwanese Tea Making"

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Tea Story: Alishan Farmer

The 2005 trip to Taiwan was a great one. We met a lot of tea people and farmers, and Mr. Zhang in Alishan was one of them. So how did I get to meet him? Here's our story!

We were in Taipei looking for a tea roaster. We stumbled into a tea store and found the tea roaster that we wanted. The owners were very generous and invited us to sit down and have tea with them. They asked us where we were from and what we were doing in Taiwan. I told him we were living in Seattle and were in Taiwan to look for teas and to learn about tea. One of them asked us where we were going next. We told him that we were going up to Alishan. When asked if we knew anyone in Alishan, we told him no and that we just wanted to go up there and randomly meet farmers. He took out his address book and started to make phone calls. After 5 minutes, he wrote down two names with phone numbers and told us we could go visit them. Mr. Chen said that one of them would pick us up when we arrived at the station in Alishan and that we could stay in the second farmer's house. We couldn't believe what was happening, so generous and warm of him to help complete strangers and we were very grateful that he arranged this for us. We stayed and had tea for a couple of hours and told them that we would return to visit again.

The first farmer picked us up at a bus station in Alishan, treated us to lunch and gave us tea to drink. He took us to one of his tea fields and was very proud of the location where he could grow his tea. He pointed out the mist that was accumulating up in the mountains. He told us that in a short time, the mist would travel down the slope and carry with it a lot of nourishment that his tea loved! He showed us different tea fields and then we went back to his house. We were greeted by an older farmer with a huge smile. We introduced each other, and this older farmer, Mr. Zhang, told us that we would be staying at his place that night. We thanked and said goodbye to the first farmer and left with Mr. Zhang. At his house, we were greeted by Mr. Zhang's wife, Mrs Lin. She showed us to our room and then she told us she would be cooking dinner for us. She apologized that they were vegetarians and there was no fancy food in the mountains. We thanked her and told her that she was being too polite. Mr. Zhang met us and told us that we should go for a small hike in the neighborhood. He is a great hiker. From time to time, he would stop and say, "Am I walking too fast?" I could hardly keep up with him, but I always said with a red face, "No, keep going!" There were lots of bamboo plants and trees in Alishan. It was a great delight to walk with Mr. Zhang. He knows a lot of the plants and told us a lot about them.

We ate very well that night. There were fresh bamboo shoot growing on Alishan and they were so good that I am sure I could eat bamboo shoots every day. It's one of my favorite vegetables. Along with bamboo shooots, Mrs Lin also prepared pickled wasabi roots (Alishan grows a lot of wasabi), some sort of fern-like vegetable, some vegetable grown in their own garden, tofu, and soy protein. Mrs Lin is a fantastic cook. She apologized again that the food was not good enough. I looked at her and smiled, "Are you joking? This is gourmet in America!"

The next day, Mr. Zhang took us to some of his friends' places to have tea. There were no appointments made. We just showed up (I know this can be annoying, but I do enjoy things like this. So spontaneous). We had a great time in Alishan, drinking lots of tea, talking about tea, doing lots of hiking, and eating lots of fresh vegetables. Before going to bed, we spent a relaxing time drinking tea with Mr. Zhang. He suddenly asked, "How long have you known Mr. Chen in Taipei?" We said, "We just met him three days ago." "What? It sounds like you have known each other for a long time!" he said with a big smile and continued, "This is 'Yuan Fen'(緣份, the closet translation I know of is 'Affinity'). Mr. Chen and you must feel very lucky and happy to know each other, and I am happy that Yuan Fen brought you two to me."

The next morning, before Mr. Zhang took us to the train station, I asked him how much we owed him for the room. There are a lot of hikers that visit on the weekends, so they run a small business renting out their rooms. He smiled and said, "I can't take your money. You are friends of Mr. Chen." I found a chance to go back to the room and left some money under the pillow.

On the train back to the city, I couldn't help thinking about the two days we spent with Mr. Zhang and Mrs Lin. I couldn't believe that we didn't know them at all before we met them, and yet there was so much kindness and generosity. My eyes were filled with tears and I realized how much I have missed Taiwan........

To be continued........

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Baozhong Farmer

Ever since I started to visit Pinglin for Baozhong tea, I've continued to have a special love for that place. I simply love the landscape there. It's so green and full of life, which makes me feel energized when I'm there. Usually when I talk about loving a place, a lot of my good memories include the people there that I know.

I was introduced to Baozhong Farmer Chen and his wife back in 2005. They graciously received and shared tea with us, as well as taking us to visit his tea farm. I still remember that day so well. At the time, I had not been back to Taiwan in a long time, so it was great to be in a place where I felt familiar with the food, customs, weather and the people. It was also a different trip that time. I went back with a new interest: tea.

That day was a usual humid and warm (28C) day for Taiwan. I greedily took in the air and was so excited to be in the hot climate. As we got out of his van, Farmer Chen led us to a winding dirt road that slowly crept up the hill. After 5 minutes of walking, he suddenly stopped and said, " Ah! I love this weather! It makes me sweat!"

After knowing him for over five years now, Farmer Chen strikes me as a very straight forward person. He is confident about what he knows and he won't pretend to know things that he doesn't. Once I asked him about his views on other teas. He told me he didn't know much about them, since he only makes Baozhong tea ( In recent years, he starts to make some Black tea and Oriental Beauty). His father was also a Baozhong farmer, so he learned the skills of tea making through his father and eventually took over the family business.

One time I was asking him about his aged teas and he brought out the aged Buddha Hand that I liked a lot (I am glad that some of you liked that tea a lot, too!) I asked him how old that Buddha Hand was and Farmer Chen told me "about 10 to 20 years." I burst out laughing so hard and said, " Mr. Chen, do you realize what you just said spans 10 years?" He looked at me with a smile and looked at his wife to see if she had an answer. He said, " To be honest, how can I keep track of those things?" We continued to drink tea and later I stood up to look around. I opened the container where they stored the aged Buddha Hand and found a note on the lid stating how old the tea was, with a date of their last roast as well. I said, "Mr. Chen! The tea is 18 years old" and showed him the lid. He smiled and said, "You see, I was right. 10 to 20 years old!"

Farmer Chen and his wife work on the farm together. Mr. Chen processes all of his teas himself and Mrs Chen helps. They own a retail shop on the main street in Pinglin so she spends a lot of time there, too. They have a son and he is in Taipei so that he can have "a better life" than farming. Tea making is very hard work. I asked Chen once if his son is interested in growing tea and he said no. I asked what is going to happen when he no longer can farm. He said he doesn't know. "Can you adopt me?" I asked. He answered with a smile, "Do you know how hard this is, Miss Tai?" "I can try. I am a very tough person." "I don't think you can do it." Mr. Chen replied (In the past, I have asked some farmers to adopt me so that I can learn more about tea, but I've always been rejected. How frustrating!)

We have carried Farmer's Choice Baozhong from Mr. Chen for five years. Each year, we have tried to find a Baozhong that has a heavier body than the competition style Baozhong, which is known for its strong floral notes. After I tried teas with Mr. and Mrs Chen last year and made my purchase decisions, I told Farmer Chen, "Mr. Chen, you are the farmer. You should be the one to choose 'Farmer's Choice Baozhong' for us." He stood up and came back with some tea leaves in his hand. I tasted a sip of that tea and looked at him with my eyes wide open, "Are you serious? This is not even Qingxin Oolong!" (Yes, I sounded snobby. What an impolite way to act towards a respected tea farmer!) He said, "Miss Tai, I am a farmer. I work on the fields all day. I don't have time to drink tea Gongfu style, so something with a big flavor is what I would drink as a farmer."

It is always a delight to spend some time with the Chen family. I am looking forward to many more years of my tea relationship with them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Northwest Tea Festival

It's Northwest Tea Festival time again: October 1st and 2nd. There are great talks and demos. Check it out if you have time: www.nwteafestival.com

I will be there on Oct. 2nd to do a class on How to Refresh/Roast A Stale Tea At Home from 12:30 to 1:30. It will be a delight to see some of you there.
Please note that Floating Leaves Tea will be open at 2:30pm that day, Oct. 2nd.

Well, it's getting cooler and cooler. Time for a delicious cup of hot tea!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Taiwanese Tea Information

I have been working on writing more about Taiwanese teas for my website and would like to share them with you.

The first page that has been completed is about Taiwanese Tea, Growing Regions and Tea Varietals with Chinese pronunciation. You can check it out here:

We are still working on the page layout and the list of teas will expand over time. I hope you will enjoy learning the Chinese terms for our favorite teas. If you have any feedback or questions, please contact me at tea@floatingleaves.com

I am also working on stories about the tea farmers that I met in Taiwan and some facts about Taiwanese Teas. I will announce them as soon as they have been published on the website. Have fun reading!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Floating Leaves Is Six Years Old

Floating Leaves Tea is six years old!

It has been a wonderful journey full of so many good memories with new and old tea friends alike. We would like to thank you for supporting our business. ALL of our tea and tea ware will be 15% off from August 8th to 18th. Check it out at www.floatingleavestea.com

And of course, I will love to see you at the shop for tea.

Our new crop of Oriental Beauty just arrived. The leaves are beautiful and it has notes of rose and honey. It should be on the website soon.

Enjoy your summer and drink lots of good tea!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Free Shipping

There is a "Free Shipping" option now on www.floatingleaves.com! If you order more than $80 of tea/tea ware, you will be upgraded to free shipping.

Thank you all for your generous support. If there is a problem, please contact me at tea@floatingleaves.com.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Floating Leaves Tea Online Customers, Thank You!

I am blessed to be in the tea business, I simply love what I do. Throughout the years, I have made a lot of tea friends and every time that I hear from one of you that you really love the teas from Floating Leaves Tea, it always makes my day.

I have spent many enjoyable hours drinking tea with a lot of you and I wish I could drink tea with those who are not living in Seattle as well. In the past month, I have received a lot of emails from online customers asking me about the new season's teas, as well as to give me comments on my products. Even though I have never seen some of you, I feel like we know each other through the tea. Thank you all for your encouragement and for your kind words. I am looking forward to serving you more teas and to finding the exact cup that's right for you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This Spring's Tea Offerings

Since I have been back, many of you have come into the shop to taste our new tea offerings. Thank you! The news teas have finally been listed on the website.

I want to especially thank online tea customers for your patience and your trust in our teas. I hope that someday we can all sit down and drink some tea together. Thank you all for your support of Floating Leaves Tea!

I am really liking this season's tea a lot. I think they all have wonderful, clear and unique characters! And I hope you are enjoying the tea, too. A note about this season's teas: due to a longer period of cold weather this past season, a lot of the tea is very tender. I suggest that you adjust the quantity of tea or the brewing time that you normally use. I have noticed that the tea's flavor generally "releases" much faster than usual.

Also, one of our tea tour members, Marilyn, writes a blog. She just published some posts with her experiences from our Taiwan 2011 tea tour:

She has great pictures. Check them out!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Taiwan Tea Trip: Muzha Part III

The Chinese say that to make a good tea takes Time/Weather 天時, Location/Soil 地利, and Human/Skills 人和. After several years of watching how an Oolong is made, I have to say I have a lot of respect for those dedicated tea farmers.

Traditional Tieguanyin is rich in its body and flavor. This tea takes more oxidation 發酵, stirring 攪拌, and roasting 烘焙 when compared to Baozhong and High Mountain Oolongs. In fact, it takes more work than just about any other oolong tea. On our most recent tea tour, we were lucky to see part of the oxidation and stirring processes.

We went inside a small room where there was a metal tube, a tumbling machine, and a tea rolling machine. We also saw small balls of tea on the floor. Farmer Zhang opened one ball and loosened up the tea leaves a bit on a bamboo tray, then he tossed the leaves in a tube that heated up the leaves (I forgot to ask what the temperature in the tube was). Once in a while, he would reach in and feel the tea. I remembered one time I was on Dong Ding mountain and a tea maker offered to let me reach in the tube and feel the leaves. I turned down that opportunity because I noticed that temperature read 300C and I could hear a hissing sound from the leaves!

After he poured the leaves out of the tube, he rolled them up and would then pick up another ball of tea from the ground and repeat the process. He told us that he had to do this about 50 times!

Tieguanyin is known for its roasting. Farmer Zhang told us that he would do one roasting and let the tea rest for about two weeks before doing further roastings. He said a lot of customers go to him for Tieguanyin that was done a year or two ago. After that amount of time, the tea's fire will mellow, which makes the tea rounder and smoother. He said Baozhong and high mountain oolongs are designed to be drunk when fresh. That kind of tea is bright and the energy focuses on the head and mouth area, while Tieguanyin's focus is on the throat area and its energy travels down through one's whole body.

And here is the delicious cup of tea the farmer is looking for.......

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Taiwan Tea Trip- Muzha Part II

I have always enjoyed visiting Farmer Zhang up at Muzha. I love seeing his smile and his dedication to tea. He told us good tea starts with the right varietal, which is the Tieguanyin varietal Hong Xin Wai Wei Tao 紅心歪尾桃 that his ancestors brought over from China.

He also told us that tea plants need good care and he was very proud to show us a huge photo album of his Lupine flowers. He said they are great for fertilizing his tea plants and because of them, he doesn't need to use artificial fertilizers.

We were very lucky that one of the tour members, Jim Miller, knows a lot about plants. Jim explained how Lupine works: " Lupines, which are in the same family as the pea/legume(Fabaceae) are "Nitrogen-fixing." By that, I mean, they draw nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules on their roots. Therefore, they make great "green-manure." They are called " cover crops" and are grown to turn into the soil in which they grew. This can be done in two ways:
1. About a month before planting, a desired crop, the cover crop, may be dug and turned over to decompose in the soil. This adds the Nitrogen in the roots and the plants fibrous material to the soil. This improves the soil and feeds the plants.
2. Or, they can be cut at ground level, which leaves the roots with the nitrogen to feed the plants around them and the cut plants serve s a "mulch" which holds in water and prohibits weeds from germinating. The fibrous material which is added to the soil increase the organic level of the soil. As these substances decompose, they improve air and water-holding capacity to the soil. So by growing cover crops (Lupines), protects the soil from erosion during the winter, adds nutrients in the form of nitrogen, which all leafy plants need for foliage; tea leaves, and improves soil with organic material."

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 Spring Tea

It has been a great trip and it was great to see our tea farmers and wonderful tea-industry people again.

Due to a colder and longer winter, the tea is being harvested later in the season and production is low, too. It seems like everyone has been waiting impatiently and excitedly for the Spring tea to be finished and ready. I was deeply grateful that my tea friend saved me some good high mountain oolongs for me to taste; I went back home to southern Taiwan for a while and the Spring teas were selling quickly. Yes, tea sells really fast in Taiwan, especially at the beginning of a new season! I am pretty excited about the Lishan and DaYuLing, and can't wait to share it with you.

As for Baozhong, the Competition tea is not ready yet, so a tea friend that is a Baozhong expert will choose the tea and send it to me when it's ready. I personally chose Farmer's Choice Baozhong and will bring some back with me. I think this season's Baozhong tastes better than the previous season's.

I was very happy to meet up with Mr. Zhan, who is quite an expert at roasting Dong Ding with charcoal. He is such a gentle person and it feels really peaceful to drink tea with him. He doesn't have much charcoal roasted tea left. He told me that his health hasn't been too good these years so he can't roast too much tea. Before I left, I took hold of his hands and asked him to take care. I told him that we will continue to love his tea for many years to come.

A lot of new gaiwans have been sent out, so we should have them in stock sometime in June. I also found some yixing pots that should work especially well with Taiwanese Oolongs.

I am leaving for Seattle tomorrow. Floating Leaves Tea shop will be open again starting on Wednesday. See you soon, with some tasty new teas to try!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 Spring Baozhong

Today I went up to Pinglin to taste some Baozhong. Due to the colder weather, the Baozhong is being harvested later than usual, so all of the competition tea is still at the competition hall. Today is only the second day of the tea competition.

We focused on tasting Farmer's Choice Baozhong today. Farmer Chen likes to work with a lot of tea varietals, so he brewed us not just Baozhong from Chin Hsin Oolong, but he also let us try Baozhong tea that is made from the "Slow Growth" varietal and also one made from the Shui Xian varietal. It was so interesting to try different types of Baozhong. We all agreed that the Shui Xian Baozhong tasted very different from the others, but it will taste even better if it's roasted a bit. The Slow Growth varietal of Baozhong tasted interesting and it's noticeably sweeter than the rest. Farmer Chen told me it will really open up after a couple of months.

My tea friends and I agreed on the one we liked the most and I am very excited to share that tea with you soon.

As for high mountain teas, I have tasted a some from Alishan and Lishan. So far, my impression is that the quality is good and the tea has a very soft tea broth. Tomorrow, my day will be spent focused on tasting high mountain teas. After my initial impressions from tasting a few of them already, I think this season's high mountain oolongs are good and I am excited to bring some delicious teas back to Seattle!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taiwan Tea Trip - Muzha

We took the special cable car up to Muzha and the view was quite fantastic. It was very hot that day! The Tie Guan Yin farmer's wife was so thoughtful to prepare some cold brew tea for us so that we would have something refreshing to drink when we arrived. After the delicious cold tea, we proceeded to taste several different kinds of hot Muzha Tie Guan Yin. Farmer Zhang poured tea for us all afternoon and he was very proud to show us some Lupine flower photos. He told us that he used them as a fertilizer for his TGY tea plants.

After an afternoon of tea drinking and tea learning, Mrs. Zhang cooked a wonderful lunch for us made up of locally grown foods. I have to say she is a very good cook!

Tomorrow I will share more from our Muzha experience.

Shrimp cooked with tea

Tea fried rice

Farmer Zhang brews tea for us

Cold brewed tea

View of Taipei from the Maokong cable car

Cable cars to Maokong / Muzha

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thank You to My Dear Tea Tour Travelers

We had another great trip to Taiwan this year with many wonderful memories. I want to sincerely thank the fantastic tour group members with whom I was able to share many delicious meals and experiences with. I am so happy to have been able to teach you more about my beautiful homeland, our excellent teas and of course, the good cultural, shopping and eating experiences that we have. Thank you for making this such a fun and worthwhile trip for everyone.

Also, a big thank you to my co-guide Maggie. She is a fellow foodie from Taiwan and a trained chef as a well, so she added a lot of useful knowledge to the group.

I have many more pictures and stories to share in the coming weeks, after I finish this season's tea buying. I'll be back to the shop in a little more than a week and would love to see you all again then.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taiwan Tea Trip - Alishan, Hiking

I have always enjoyed hiking on Alishan. There are beautiful tea fields, bamboo forests and many varieties of rare trees. We hiked from 1600 meters to around 2000 meters. The view was fantastic and we could see the far-off mountains from where we were at.

Hiking through the bamboo forests

The forest of trees that we passed

The view from the top

Beautiful high mountain tea plants

Enjoying a break after our hike

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taiwan Tea Trip - Alishan, Tea Process

Sorry for the late update, Blogger has been down for a few days, so we had to wait for the issues to be fixed before we could post again.

It has been colder than usual for this spring's Taiwanese Oolong. When we arrived on Alishan, the farmers were just starting to pick tea. We were lucky to get to participate in a lot of the tea making process.

Tea rolling to shape the oolong balls

"Stir Green" is a process to help water evaporate evenly from the leaves; its needed for the oxidation of the tea leaves and help them "waken" with the right flavor at the right time

A tea maker showed us how to "stir green"

Outdoor withering and oxidizing

Monday, May 09, 2011

Taiwan Tea Tour - Alishan

Tea pickers picking fresh Alishan

This spring has been colder and longer than usual, so the tea is being picked later in the season. When we went up to Alishan, we were very lucky with the weather and were able to pick tea as soon as we arrived. We had a great time picking tea with the tea pickers and had a simple lesson from one of them, who showed us what to pick and where to pick. It was fun for the tour members to be on Alishan, learning from the tea pickers and tea makers about famous high mountain tea. Some of tea leaves turned into a dish that we ate. Those deep fried tea leaves were delicious!

Tomorrow I will have an update with some photos of the tea making process.

We have fun picking tea together

The tea that we picked...lots of hard work

Delicious fried tea leaves