If you'd like to comment or subscribe, visit this feed on Blogger!
I love being in Alishan. It's so green and full of wonderful trees and bamboo forests.
I am happy that farmer Zhang had some time to show us around this time. I enjoyed talking and hiking with him.
And of course, we got to drink their freshly made Alishan tea. I think the overall quality of this season's tea is better than last winter. I am excited to bring back some Alishan from their tea fields and I can't wait to share them with you!
Before our appointment with Farmer Zhang, we took some time to walk around the Muzha area. We were very lucky to discover pickers harvesting tea. They were very nice and didn't mind us going in to the tea field to see how they picked tea. They told us they were picking Six Season Spring varietal, the 2nd harvest of the season.
Then we saw the farmer who collected the leaves. He didn't mind us watching him doing outdoor oxidation and let us smell the leaves. They smelled delicious!
I was really looking forward to drinking tea with Farmer Zhang. He has a passion for making traditional style Tieguanyin and I simply love his smile.
He started us off with a Tieguanyin that he just finished roasting a couple of hours prior to us showing up. It's very interesting to start with a tea like that. He told us that some drinkers like tea that's "fresh out of the oven." I told him that I felt the tea is not "round" yet. He said a tea like that takes a couple of weeks for the firing to become smooth. He said he wanted us to taste the tea base. He guaranteed that the tea would turn into a round tea if we stored it for a while. It's always very interesting to discuss tea with Farmer Zhang. I will be sharing what he thinks about his teas over the next couple of posts.
I ended up choosing a Tieguanyin made in 2008. It has a strong tea body with a very clear energy. I also picked up a Tieguanyin that was made in 1999. It's smooth and the tea energy is gentler. I am very happy with both of the teas. I am looking forward to sharing them after I return to Seattle!
PingLin is one of oldest tea growing regions in Taiwan. It's most famous for its Baozhong, but it also has a lot of other varietals of tea plants. One of my favorite ones is tea made from the Buddha Hand varietal. When I go to visit Farmer Chen, I always ask if he has any Buddha Hand tea.
Prior to our visit, Farmer Chen had a customer who tried his Buddha Hand and liked it so much that he bought all of the Buddha Hand in the shop! Farmer Chen knew that we were curious about that tea, so he brought out a Buddha Hand that was only half-way done. The leaves were stored in the refrigerator and were awaiting the rolling process.
I have never tasted a Buddha Hand like this before. It was much lighter than the finished one I'm used to. We appreciated Farmer Chen's generosity in sharing this special treat with us.
*photos are provided by Matthew Kraus
We were in PingLin on Saturday, May 4th. The tea was already harvested, but the second picking was not quite ready yet.
Then we moved on to taste some aged Oolongs. We were very excited to taste some that are 15 to 20 years old. I chose one that I think has a very smooth tea base with a clear energy route. I am excited to share this when I return.
It was so nice to drink tea with Mr. and Mrs. Chen. They are always so kind and generous! I'm excited that their tea will be in Seattle soon!
We have already been in Taiwan for 3 days. There is so much to write about and so little time!
We took the EVA air flight directly to Taipei. As soon as we landed, some group members were excited about the the food on the airplane and asked me about it. I knew I would have an adventurous group at that time.
After 12.5 hours of flight, we decided to walk around the city a little and used the local public transportation to get a good feel for Taipei. We have been lucky that the weather has been mild. It has been around 70F and a little overcast.
I usually like to take people to Wistaria Tea House on Day 1. It's such a peaceful and beautiful space, and they have VERY GOOD TEA there!
We chose a freshly harvested Spring Baozhong (produced on Alishan instead of PingLin) as our first tea. What a great choice! We were so happy with that fresh and light floral bouquet, so pure and clean. That was just what we needed after a long flight.
After lunch, we decided to go for an Oriental Beauty as a dessert tea. This Oriental Beauty has more of cinnamon sweetness and we were all intrigued by it.
Jet-lag plus relaxation made us a bit sleepy. I told the group that a wild tree Sheng Puer might help. I explained to the group that a good Sheng Puer from wild trees would carry a lot of energy. Uunlike most green puers, however, the energy would be strong but smooth. They were all very excited to try the tea. The first infusion surprised them by how smooth the liquid was (a lot of tea drinkers have experience with Sheng Puer being rough and bitter). They were simply thrilled by its quality and the chance to taste it! After a couple of cups, some of us started to feel the "heat" from this tea. We were pretty awake by then.
And did I mention how great this group is? I am honored to be their tour leader and can't wait to show them more of the Taiwan that I love!
It's the time of the year again for the Spring tea harvest and tea tour! I am very fortunate to lead 6 people to Taiwan on our tour this year and I can't wait to introduce them to tea farmers, walk with them through the tea fields, learn more about tea together, drink amazing tea and eat a ton of yummy food! I will be posting updates and pictures on my blog or on our Facebook page: Floating Leaves Tea
After our tea tour, I will be sourcing the upcoming season's tea in Taiwan. I am very excited and can't wait to share the teas from this trip with you!
Floating Leaves Tea will be open on select days in May only - we will be closed for most of the month. Now is a great time to stock up on your favorite teas before I leave! All the tea at Floating Leaves Tea will be 25% off from April 19th to 26th.
May Business Schedule:
Open May 1st, 4th, 18th, 30th and 31st: 11am to 5pm
I look forward to sharing some delicious teas with you after I return!
I received these Yixing teapots a couple of months ago and have been having fun testing them out.
西施壺 XiShiHu 160ml
I tried out different kinds of Roasted Oolongs in this pot and other pots. I am really impressed how well a Roasted Oolong tastes in this pot.
高潘壺 GaoPanHu 100ml
This pot works well for aged Green Puers.
高虛扁壺 GaoXuBianHu 90ml
A great little pot for Green Oolongs.
南瓜壺 NanGuaHu 150ml
I like how a Cooked Puer tastes in this pot.
石瓢壺 ShiPiaoHu 110ml
Green Puers work well in this pot.
*Thank you, Douglas King, for providing these pictures.
Earlier in the season, I heard some bad news about this winter's tea: not enough rain and warmer weather..... well, the patience and hope have paid off. We waited and waited and our delicious winter Oolongs have arrived!
For this season's tea, we offer four High Mountain Oolongs: ShanLinXi is bright and enjoyable; Alishan is soft and floral; Lishan is buttery and yummy; and DaYuLing is delicate and complex. If I really have to choose a favorite, I would currently vote for Lishan. I like a tea with exceptional mouth feel.
Our three Baozhongs are all very good, too. Farmer's Choice Baozhong has a really clean and nice body; Competition Style Baozhong is floral and balanced; and 2nd Place Baozhong is floral and has the best aftertaste. At this moment, I can't decide which one is my favorite.
Some of you might prefer roasted Oolongs during winter time. At Floating Leaves Tea, we offer you Muzha Tieguanyin produced by Farmer Zhang( one of my favorite tea farmers). This Tieguanyin is rich and satisfying. Our Dong Ding Charcoal Roast just arrived. I love this Dong Ding. It's very full bodied with a wonderful warm, roasted and sweet aftertaste that lingers in the mouth.
I look forward to sharing some of these teas with you. And stay warm with a good pot of tea!
*photos are provided by Rob Bageant.
In one of our recent tea club meetings, we had a wonderful chance to try a 90's Puer tea(Essence of Tea) from two different storage: One in a clay jar at a participant's home in Seattle, and one in a pumidor at another participant's home in WA.
The person with the pumidor has a wonderful tea blog: Listening To Leaves and wrote an article on this specific tea tasting. I thought you might like to read it. Enjoy reading!
Admission: $10 at the door.
Phoenix Tea: Hunan and Anhui Hei Cha
Miro Tea: Green Tea
Floating Leaves Tea: Taiwanese Oolong
McIntosh Tea: Puer
Tea Geek: Black Tea
Guitian's Tea: Chinese Oolong
Noon to 3pm
Cannata Fine Tea Imports: Tea and Chocolate pairing
Embrace The Moon Taichi & Qigong
1716 NW Market Street, Seattle WA 98107
For more information, please check out our facebook page: Seattle Holiday Tea Fundraiser
Questions? Contact Shiuwen at Floating Leaves Tea: email@example.com or 206-276-9542
Looking forward to sharing some tea with you!
*picture is provided by Becky Lee.
Our 7-year anniversary sale was very successful. I want to thank you all for your support! I am very happy and thankful that this season's tea has been selling well. A lot of teas have sold out much faster than I expected: Aged Baozhong, Alishan, ShanLinxi, Dong Ding Select, Buddha's Hand, and 2011 Muzha Tieguanyin.
I have been seeing an increase in business at both the store and on our website. I have very much enjoyed sharing tea with people who came to the store, and have had wonderful tea chats and email correspondence with customers who can't visit us in person. At the same time, I have been encountering a challenge: it's become more difficult for me to get things done.
I am very excited to add some new services and benefits for our customers. I would like to announce some changes to our tea tastings, the launch of a tea lover's club and the introduction of more tea classes both for the shop and for the online customers. I am hoping that these changes will help me to organize my time, while still allowing me to share tea and tea knowledge with all of you.
-Tea Tastings: I will offer tea tastings from 12 to 3pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This is a great opportunity to sample some teas that you are interested in. These tastings will be informal and fun. Seating will be first-come, first-served: $5.00 per person. The tasting fee will be applied towards purchases of $25 or more.
-Tea Classes: I will be updating tea class schedule once a month. In the next month or so, I am hoping to set up a web cam system so that I can offer classes to tea customers who can't visit the shop.
-Floating Leaves Tea Club: I am very excited about the tea club. I am planning to meet twice a month, possibly on a Friday afternoon and a Saturday morning. Among other benefits, Floating Leaves Tea Club members will have exclusively access to taste rare teas that I source on my tea trips and from my suppliers, as well as being able to taste our new season's teas first. I will also be providing different tea brewing experiences, competition style tea brewing, and hosting discussions and topics on intermediate and advanced tea topics. This club will focus on Taiwanese Oolongs, but over time, I plan to bring in high-quality puer and Chinese Oolongs for our club members. I will also being teaching directly from Chinese texts written by some of the great tea masters. In the future, tea members will be able to make requests for special tea purchases.
If you are interested in becoming a club member, I will be offering the first two meetings for free. To sign up, please talk to me or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For our online customers, please give me some time to set up our web cam system before I will be able to offer similar membership to you.
I hope that by making these changes, I will be able to offer you a better-organized, in-depth tea education and experience. Meanwhile, your comments and feedback are welcomed.
With Autumn here, our Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding has arrived, just in time. It's full bodied and fruity, with a nice touch of warm charcoal-roasted notes
lingering in the mouth.
*Photo provided by Douglas King.
The new spring Oolongs arrived about three weeks ago and they are opening up beautifully. I have been very happy with this season's tea. A lot of them have very full flavors with an exquisite softness underneath. Many people have already tasted this season's teas with me and the feedback has been very positive.
Normally by this time, I would have been able to choose my favorite tea for the season, but it has been difficult for me to make a decision. I like the warm and full-bodied 2011 Muzha Tieguanyin. I like our Dong Ding Traditional that has a solid mouth feel, whereas our Dong Ding Select is very soft and gentle through many, many infusions. I like the boldness of the Buddha's Hand, which at the same time, feels so soft on the palate. The high mountain Oolongs are all unique, but wonderfully complex with creamy, buttery textures. If you haven't tried out this season's teas yet, please do!
I am also very excited to share these delicious new teas with some tea friends in Portland. I will be in Portland on June 29th and 30th to present four tastings: a Baozhong Tasting; a High Mountain Oolong Tasting; a Dong Ding Tasting, and an Aged Oolong Tasting. If you live in Portland or know friends who you think would like to join me, please pass on the information. For detailed information and to sign up, please contact:
David, Portland Tea Enthusiastis' Alliance (PDX TEA):
Special thanks to Jan Ellis and David Galli for putting this event together in Portland.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 will write about my Dong Ding trip in my next post.
I am very excited to be going back to Taiwan in May: good tea; good food; warm weather; visiting family and friends....
Before I leave, please stock up on your favorite teas. We are offering a 20% discount on all of our teas from April 22nd to April 28th. Take advantage of this good opportunity! I will be back at the end of May with delicious new teas. A list of times and dates for tea tastings will be posted on our website in May, please RSVP for a tasting.
While I am gone, my friend David will be at the shop to help you if you need to purchase tea.
Here is Floating Leaves Tea's May Store Hours:
Open from 11am to 5pm on May 2nd, May 5th, May 19th, 26th, 30th, and 31st.
All of the internet orders in May will be shipped out once a week on a Saturday.
If you need to contact us, you can reach us at email@example.com or you can reach David at 206-588-6916. I will do my best to update this blog with tea news from Taiwan.
Enjoy your tea and I look forward to seeing you or hearing from you very soon!
I looked at the pots in her cabinet and chose three other pots. I felt so excited, just like if I had turned into a little kid in a toy store. It was like treasure hunting!
The only problem with finding pots like these is that I like the pots too much and will be sad to let them go to new owners! I have been "playing" with them for the past three weeks and now I am ready to sell them.
This is a cute little pot. It holds around 100ml of water and it has been seasoned with lots of raw puer.
My friend started to season this pot with Puer tea about half of a year ago and the clay has already changed color. It holds around 180ml of water.
This pot has been used to brew Puer tea for a while, too. It holds around 180ml of water.
I found this little pot back in Taiwan. It holds around 100ml of water. It's definitely been used and seasoned with tea before. It should be pretty good for Oolong teas.
If you are interested in any of the pots, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be listing them on my website, too.
*Special thanks to Douglas King for taking those beautiful teapot photos.
Each morning, Mrs. Lin would cook us breakfast. It was so delicious that we would eat more food than we usually do in the morning. After breakfast, we would take a break and then gather in their living room for tea. On the tea table, one would see crackers, different types of dried fruit and roasted peanuts. Those roasted peanuts were SO GOOD that we couldn't stop eating them!
At around 11am, she asked, "Do you want some instant noodles?" I had to laugh and translated what she said. Everyone simply shook his/her head, so I told her we were not hungry at all. Then she said, "If you don't like instant noodles, we can order some lunch boxes." I translated again and we all had to laugh. One of our tour members asked, " Do you Taiwanese people eat like this all of the time? How is everyone still skinny?" I said, "We do eat a lot of food, but not like this. This is one of the ways that a Taiwanese person shows his or her affection and hospitality. Don't worry. I will make sure they won't give us any lunch boxes." After tea (and some more snacks), we said goodbye and headed to the Jade Mountain National Park.
It was quiet and beautiful, unlike Alishan National Park which is a major tourist destination and is always packed. Farmer Zhang took out a bag with an assortment of snacks from his car and told us we should take a walk. After an hour or so, Farmer Zhang asked us if we were hungry. We all said no, and some tour members said they could skip lunch. After the walk, we went back to the car. Mr. Zhang opened his trunk and took out a butane burner and a big pot and told us it's time for lunch. I didn't know Mrs. Lin had prepared some soup stock and vegetables for us, so all we had to do was to heat up the stock and add noodles. There we were at a parking lot in a national park, cooking noodle soup. It was delicious and we had a lot of fun!
Farmer Zhang is no longer very involved with tea farming and he is lucky that his son-in-law is very interested in tea. It was great to see the next generation taking up tea farming work. I met his son-in-law, Ah-Chon, back in 2005. He was a very polite and quiet young man. Throughout the years, I have seen him stepping up to take over the business. He is very enthusiastic at sharing what he discovers.
I love to be in that specific part of Alishan, so tranquil and surrounded by trees and bamboo forests. I love to eat the food from Mrs. Lin and love to drink tea with Mr. Zhang over many conversations about his life philosophy. I love taking walks with the family after dinner when the fireflies are out.... The Zhang family make the place more special and it shows in their smiles.
-One thing you can use at home is your oven. The following information is from a dear friend of mine, Jason, reprinted here with his permission. I have to admit I don't do this at home. I try not to do any tea activity at home besides drinking it.
"I start at 170F (lowest my oven goes), with the door slightly open. I'll let the tea come up to that temperature over 20 min, stirring a couple times.
Then I close the door and wait about 5 min. Then stir the tea every 5 min or so and increase the temperature every 15 min by 5F degrees, adjusting the timing a bit depending on the scent. If the scent is still stale I'll increase the temperature a bit faster. If the scent is good (maybe starting to smell like roasted grains), I'll let it go for a bit longer. If the scent is a hint burned, I'll wait longer, or sometimes take the temperature down a bit.
Over time, I'll increase the temperature to about 200-210F. Then once it gets the smallest hint of bitterness or burned tea scent I'll take it back down to 190F, decreasing by 10F every 5-7min.
Some robust teas, like Dong Ding or ones that started roasted, I can get up to 220F before they show signs of over-roasting. Other delicate teas or teas where I want to preserve more subtle flavors (like gaoshan), I can only get up to about 190F during the initial roasting (but I can get them higher after letting them rest for a week or two)."
-Use a small tea roaster. Please see the photo below:
A small tea roaster like this will hold about 4 ounces of rolled oolongs. It's very easy to use. There is a temperature dial built into the roaster. I like to start at around 60C and let the tea sit for around 20 minutes or so, stirring it occasionally, and adjusting the temperature higher. When do you need to adjust the temperature? Once there is a shift in the smell. Pay attention to it. If you can't catch it, it's alright, just go ahead and adjust the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees. This will take about two hours and it will actually turn a lightly oxidized oolong into a roasted oolong. The process will make your house smell fantastic!
Many of us tend to buy more tea than we can drink, and even our good teas will eventually become stale. The following two methods will help you to get rid of the staleness, revive some of the strength and bring out more body in a tea (please note, this is good for a pot or two worth of teas. It doesn't stabilize a tea, so please don't use these techniques for too much tea).
The first method only requires a candle and a piece of paper. Please see the picture below:
It's very simple, but please be careful. You want to get the paper close enough to the flame for heat, but not too close that it overheats the paper; I have seen the paper get burned from time to time. If you try this method, please focus on it and do not do anything else. Hold the paper steadily so that the heat can get into the leaves. Occasionally shake the paper a bit so that the heat can evenly get into the leaves. This method requires some patience. It takes at least 25 minutes for me to revive a tea.
There is a second, simple method you can use at home. Please see the picture below:
You can find this kind of metal stand in many kitchenware stores. Use a Yixing pot that you don't care much for or from which the lid of the pot has broken. When you use this method, it's faster than the previous one. I notice that sometimes it takes only 15 minutes to revive a tea. Like the paper method, you want to shake the leaves around from time to time. You can gently shake the pot; I also like to cover the pot with my hand and give it a good shake.
So how does one tell if a tea has been revived? Smell it. When a tea is stale, you can smell the "moisture," the disappearance of the original scents, and some sort of plummy smell. When refreshing a tea, you should be able to smell the moisture leave the leaves. It seems to me like some sort of "baked" smell starts to show up. And of course, the best way to tell is to taste the tea. Try to remember the smells in the tea when you think you have done a good job of reviving the tea. Over time, you will be able to learn how to be consistent with your "roasting."
In my next post, I will talk about other ways to revive or roast a stale tea at home.