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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

PingLin, May 23, 2012

Konghai and I went to YiLan for a couple of days before we headed over to PingLin. YiLan is in the northeastern part of Taiwan. It feels much quieter than Taipei and the beach area is gorgeous.
It only took us about 40 minutes to get from YiLan to PingLin. There is a freeway going through the mountains and we go through one of the longest tunnels in the world.

When we arrived, Mrs Chen was already waiting for us. Farmer Chen was weeding outside. Mrs Chen immediately prepared the tea table for us to sample tea. I was pretty happy with the Baozhongs I tasted. I think they're better than the previous winter's Baozhong. Farmer Chen came in to see us with a baby in his arms. He looked so happy! He told me it was his grandson who just turned one. Farmer Chen joined us for tea and Mrs Chen went to the back with the baby boy.

He asked me which Baozhong I liked. I pointed at two cups and told him I was still deciding which one I liked better. He told me one of them got left in the roaster longer than he intended to. I told him it turned out just fine. Then he took out a different tea and let me taste it. He said that was the same one without roasting. After tasting both, I told him I preferred the one that with the extra roasting.

Mrs Chen came out from the back and told us to have lunch. She amazes me. She probably left for only about an hour and in that short amount of time, she had prepared a table full of food for us. On the top of that, she was watching a baby boy!

After lunch, we continued to taste more tea. Farmer Chen would leave the table from time to time to play with his grandson and Konghai. It is clear from watching his face how much he loves children.

It's always nice to visit the Chen family. They are so kind and generous. I made the decision to choose one of the teas that I tasted as our Farmer's Choice Baozhong. I can't wait to share it with you.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Wonderful Taiwan Trip

It has been a good trip in Taiwan and now it's time to return to Seattle.
I am very happy that Konghai and I got to spend more time with our family in Tainan. My mother and other family members were very thrilled to see Konghai. We enjoyed going to the afternoon market with my mother and bought fresh fruit and vegetables every afternoon. And of course, the best thing was to eat my mother's cooking! We also visited some cool parks and historical sites while we were in Tainan.

It was also great to go up and visit some of the tea mountains. They are so green and lively. Drinking tea with tea farmers is one of the best parts of this business. They are so kind and so generous. I look forward to seeing them all again soon.

I am excited about the teas that I found on this trip. It is great to have our Dong Ding Traditional back in the tea lineup. For those of you who like Tieguanyin, you will like the one I found. It is full bodied and has great tea energy. We also have a good high mountain oolong selection for you, including Lishan, ShanLinXi, Alishan, and DaYuLing. The high mountain teas we selected this season have a really nice, soft tea broth. I think you will like them. I will be posting a review of our high mountain oolongs soon. There will also be a limited supply of aged Oolongs: Dong Ding; Baozhong; and an oolong from the MiaoLi region. I'll have a post about these aged Oolongs soon as well.
I am grateful to the tea farmers and tea people that I met on this trip. I am grateful to my friends and family who took the time to show us around. Special thanks to my friend Sunny and her family, who were very generous to offer their home to Konghai and me.
I will miss Taiwan a lot and now it's time to go back to my second home, Seattle.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wistaria Teahouse, May 18th 2012

I used to visit Wistaria Teahouse when I attended university in Taipei. I remember it as peaceful and beautiful, a great space to get away from the hustle and bustle of Taipei.

For some people, Wistaria is more than just a teahouse. It has provided artists with a space to create and has provided political activists with a space to express their ideas.

Now when I return to Taiwan, I like to visit this beautiful teahouse. This year, I was grateful that the owner Mr. Zhou Yu spent some time with me when I visited (I noticed he also had two other tables to attend to). I enjoy Mr Zhou Yu's presence. He is very gentle and soft spoken. When we met, he was drinking an old loose leaf puer from his private reserve. I thanked him for sharing the tea with me. The tea was very soft and gentle. I asked him about the red label puer. He told me that among the 50's puer cakes, he thinks the red label is the best one. He talked a bit about brewing the tea and said that compared to the puer we were drinking, red label should have more flavor and the tea energy is stronger.

I am very excited to acquire a sample-size of this special red label tea and I look forward to sharing this rare puer with some of you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Muzha, May 17th, 2012

I went to Muzha to visit Farmer Zhan today. He and his wife were busy working on remodeling their teahouse and I was grateful they took the time to drink some tea with me.

During the Japanese occupation era, it is believed two Zhan brothers brought the Tieguanyin tea plants from Anxi China and planted them in the Muzha area of Taiwan. Farmer Zhan said he is the fourth generation of this lineage. When asked when he started learning to make tea, he replied ,"At age 6, my father would give me some simple tasks. By age 9, I followed my father around when he was making tea. I remember my father would wake me up and ask me to start a fire for roasting tea. I would fall asleep from time to time when I fan the fire and my father would wake me up. Sometimes I would cry because I was very sleepy. One time my father told me I have to do my job, regardless of whether I cried or smiled. Since then, I have never cried."

Making a traditional style Tieguanyin takes days. Tieguanyin tea has a particular process that other oolongs don't have. Tieguanyin tea has to be rolled many times. For high mountain tea, this rolling happens close to be the end of the processing. The purpose is to squeeze some of the juice out to the surface and to shape the tea. For Tieguanyin, the rolling happens in the middle of the process and helps bring out the rich flavor and body. This process alone can take 2 1/2 days. Farmer Zhan told me it takes him four days to finish a batch of tea. 

Farmer Zhan believes in tradition. He said Tieguanyin tea is very special and we are blessed with the tea processing skills from our ancestors. He said he has to do his best to keep this special gift. I love to listen to him talk. His face brightened up with one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.

Farmer Zhan is also very proud of his organic farming. He said lots of farmers use chemicals to kill the grass on the fields to save time and money. He uses a wonderful natural fertilizer for his precious tea plants that enhance flavors and act as a natural pesticide.

I asked him what flavor and body I should be looking for when I drink a Tieguanyin. He said, "satisfying." I laughed and totally knew what he was talking about. I have met a lot of farmers and tea drinkers in Taiwan and notice that none of them describe tea flavors in details. He continued, "Tieguanyin is a long lasting tea. One can make a lot of infusions. When you drink a good Tieguanyin, the broth is rich and you should feel a warm energy reaching to the area below your belly button."

I drank some teas with him and chose one that I feel has good tea energy. The tea broth is rich and soft. I think some of you will really like this tea, just like I do.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dong Ding, May 7th 2012

The next day, I asked the farmer about a tea of his that I tasted two years ago. He said they only make a little bit each year and their version of that tea is very good this year. He said they decided not to roast this tea as much in order to keep the "original flavor" of the tea. I asked to taste it. The tea base is very good and smooth with that particular Dong Ding fruity note. His wife came out and I told her what I thought. She smiled. I told her I would prefer it to be roasted a bit more. She said she would take care of that while Mr. Song took us out for a ride.

I enjoyed our tour. We rolled down the window and it felt so good to have the wind on my face. The air was fresh and mixed with some osmanthus scent. I simply love to see all the mountains lined up from the distance. Farmer Song likes to listen to songs that are from the 50's to 70's. He likes to sing with them and Konghai would hum with the music as well, which made the farmer very happy. I thought that was so cute! I love those moments. No lectures and everyone has a great time.

Mr. Song asked me what kind of teas I am going to buy from this trip. After he learned the types of teas that I wanted to buy, he told me he wanted me to experience "real high mountain tea." We stopped at various farmers' places and tasted mostly ShanLinXi and some other tea regions that I've never heard of before. It takes only about an hour to get up to ShanLinXi. Some farmers own farms at Lishan and HeHuan Shan, but they said they were just about to harvest tea at those regions. All the people we met were really kind and friendly. So far, the high mountain teas I tasted are softer and have more flavor than last winter's.

We went back to have lunch and then tasted the tea from the roaster. Mrs Song and I tasted the tea and I told her something was missing. She agreed and told me that the tea would be ready in about two hours. I am amazed by how she knows things like this. The previous day, she was roasting a tea and she let me smell her hand after she touched the tea. I smiled and told her it smelled very good. She said she knows the tea is ready by the smell on her hand after she touches the leaves. After a couple of hours, we tried the tea again and it was much better. She told me it was ready. She said it might taste not as wholesome yet because the tea was just taken out of the roaster. She knew excatly what I was thinking! She said the tea would taste even better in about two to three days.

I have been drinking this Dong Ding for two days after returning to Taipei. This tea has turned to be so soft and yet so full. I have been extremely happy with this tea. This is one of the teas that make me smile when I drink it.

I also got a very limited quantity of an aged Dong Ding. Farmer said he doesn't remember how old the tea is. I said I don't really care as long as it is a good tea.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dong Ding, May 6th 2012

I love being on Dong Ding mountain. I simply love the views there and all of the mountains I can see from the distance. However, I always have some mixed feelings before I go there. Farmer Song is not an easy person to deal with. He has a kind heart, but he tells people what is right, what to do and how to think. I have had problems communicating with him, but this time, I decided to do my best to stay calm and just listen without arguing.

As soon as I arrived, Farmer Song and his wife heated up water for tea. They told me they had saved some tea they thought I would like and they wanted me to choose my tea before other guests showed up. I felt a bit rushed, but grateful to be given the opportunity to choose first.

The moment I sat down, Farmer Song started his "lecture." Mrs. Song would go in and out of the kitchen as she tasted some tea with me. We were not able to talk much because Mr. Song told her to go back to cooking. Even though we only got a small chance to talk, our communication has always been right to the point. I let her know how I felt about each tea, the differences among each tea and how it was difficult to choose one. She smiled and she said she thought I would like them. I ended up choosing one with a heavier body for our Dong Ding Traditional Roast. I can't wait to taste it with all of you when I get back to Seattle. I think you will like it!

After tea, their other guests arrived and farmer Song took us all for a walk. We saw his tea fields and he told us that it's all organic. He said he doesn't even buy any fertilizer for the tea plants. He uses cut grass around the field as fertilizer. There are lots of trees, plants, and flowers. The view is very beautiful.

After dinner, Konghai and I went to our own room. We fell asleep accompanied by the bright, full moon, and the sounds of frogs, cicadas and lots of unknown insects.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taipei Taiwan, May 4th and 5th, 2012

It's good to be back in Taiwan. I was happy that when we arrived, the temperature was only about 70 degrees. My friends told me it had been raining for many days. They said the monsoon came early this year. Even though it was raining heavily, Konghai and I went out for a tour around Taipei.

We stopped by a tea friend's place. He told me that some Alishan tea was harvested before the rain and the weather conditions were good. He said that some Lishan tea was also ready to be picked but farmers were waiting for the rain to stop. He was very busy roasting tea for a competition, so we only tasted one kind of tea. I feel that the overall quality is better than the tea from the previous winter season.

The next day, two of my high school friends took Konghai and I to Muzha. We found a trail to hike. It was so beautiful out there, lots of trees with lots of sounds of birds and insects. My friend's daughter and Konghai had a great time exploring "the forest".

Later we found a teahouse and enjoyed some tea and snacks.

I was happy that I didn't arrange anything particular for the first couple of days. It felt good to just explore and to spend some time with my friends.

I will write about my Dong Ding trip in my next post.