Sunday, October 11, 2009

2009 TOST - Oriental Beauty - Drying, Rolling and Drying (6/26/2009)

If you are not there to eyewitness the whole will think that it might be all the same just like the CHART showing each step... However, with our tea masters' persistence and the competition, they will repeat the drying steps and rolling steps...also, again, because the tender leaves they are handling, they must make sure to keep the leaves' one sprout with two tender leaves intact. (**That usually is an important criteria to decide the Quality of Oriental Beauty.) Therefore, they will not dry the tea instantly, and try to apply with wet towels to hold the leaves while they are rolling with half-moon roller, or hand-rolling...We are lucky to see these two masters are competing each other...
An unforgettable experience for most of our members to observe the craftsmanship. (**My father used to tell me that "No master is true master, if he/she cannot cope with the weather, the equipments, and adjust with the tea's changing status...) Well, leave the toughness for these tea farmers and their masters. We are just as curious, and want to cup the tea we just "made". TTMA will help to dry these tea and pack in tins for every member to take home to enjoy.

2009 TOST - Oriental Beauty - Panning (6/26/2009)

Judged by the two masters, they started to pull all the leaves that have gone through indoor withered together, and set for Panning. They worked really carefully to make sure that leaves will not be broken. When the panning done, the leaves were covered with towels to get soften
with moisture contains inside. The aroma of Oriental Beauty is spreading in the air...

2009 TOST - Oriental Beauty - indoor withering (6/26/2009)

Honestly, we took a break a little bit too long to miss moving tea leaves from out door to inside the factory. Sun withered and sun burned makes huge difference...we have to be extra careful to examine the leaves' status...
During the indoor withering, we were guided to do the fluffing and softly shaking the spreading the tea leaves for few times. Our Oriental Beauty are resting on the racks...and we were treated with lichee, watermelon, Ted's sister. Norman also worked with Mr. Shen to have his competition teas for our members to evaluate...well, those tea leaves got their breaks...we, we need to review our cuppings at TRES/Taitung branch on 6/25/2009. Please refer to our post:

2009 TOST - Oriental Beauty - solar withering (6/26/2009)

Mr. Shen and several friends are waiting for us...
In the countryside, a bunch of foreign visitors show up in a tea plant to learn how to make tea...that makes news all right. His neighbors and several local farmers were there to greet us.
Solar withering plays a very important role in Oriental Beauty's processing. Usually, summer time in Taiwan could be super hot with astonishing sunshine... The shade for controlling the heat is very critical. When sun is out, we pull the shades on...when direct sun is needed again, the shades will be off. Some tea plants in Taiwan have installed remote control for their shades, but at this plant we need our young forces, Ricki and Greg, they were having fun to help out...
Each member got 2 kgs of fresh tea leaves and 5 bamboo trays. We were guided by Master Liu and Master Shen to spread the leaves evenly in 5 trays...with extra soft touch. How long the solar withering, depends on the sun shine, temperature, and humidity. We were told by our teachers to check the tea leaves to judge when the leave are done for moving to next step...indoor withering.

2009 TOST - Oriental Beauty - plucking the leaves (6/26/2009)

June 26, 2009. We left Dong Wu Hotel at 8 am sharp, all of our members are excited to meet the legendary "Oriental Beauty"!
Jackson told us that we will pick up Sensei Hsu (Master Y.S. Hsu) on the way to Lungtan tea district. Master Hsu is senior advisor of TTMA, he works with Jackson together for over 7 years conducting Taiwan Oolongs Study Program for Japanese tea pros. At the tea plant, TTMA also invites two masters to show their different skills in processing. JP reminds every one to get enough chips for their cameras...this is indeed one of the most important sessions in our program. Back on TOST 2008, we came in Taiwan late in October, so we did not have chance to observe how this unique Taiwan Oolong is making. For TOST 2009, we are actually making thoughtful we are treated by TTMA.
From the slideshow, you can see that we must change to 4 wheel drive truck to get in tea fields and that is some experience for our members. The ladies were there plucking the leaves for us to hands on making our Oriental Beauty. We were lucky to hear the beautiful Hakka Tea Mountain Love Song right there...Bob was extremely happy and tried to sing back and forth with the ladies... How hard is to pluck the tea leaves for making Oriental Beauty? Well, you just have to believe: these ladies start plucking tea leaves from their very early age...they don't watch the leaves and pick...they almost rely on their fingers' feeling...just follow the feeling to pluck those "one sprout and two tender leaves that got bidden by green leaf hoppers". How many can they get if they have to wear the glasses to check and pick the leaves? In a way, they deserve to get higher pay for their excellent works. Good tea begins with right leaf. Nothing is easy... those ladies are proud of their Gong-Fu in the tea fields!
One bag of tea leaves traveled back with our bus on a ride to Mr. Shen's tea factory.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 TOST - Visit TRES/Yangmei HQ (6/26/2009)

We have a short break while we are waiting for our Oriental Beauty to get indoor withering...
Jackson decided to take use to visit TRES Yangmei Head Quarter. Director Lin gave us a briefing and then guided our members to tour around the new Exhibition Hall on the basement...where we have seen several signatures on the visitor's we know they were also here earlier... We don't get much time to visit their facilities as our Oriental Beauty are calling us to rush back for the next step... TRES stands for Tea Research and Extension Station, a very important R&D center for Taiwan's tea industry. It was built in 1903 and continuously plays its important role for getting new cultivars and helping tea farmers and tea plants to improve the quality of Taiwan tea's plantation and manufacturing. I have made the link to the related videos of TRES on my another blog:

2009 TOST - Touring tea gardens in TRES/Taitung Branch (6/25/2009)

Here in TRES/Taitung Branch, there are various experiments on going... We were guided to see their tea gardens for various cultivars: Chin Sin Da Pan, Buddha Palm, TieKuanYin....and the Taiwan Wild Tea bushes garden, herbal the Organic tea gardens (with high tea plants as buffer zone) It is a great experience to view so many different cultivars and see how hard they are studying the tea plants from wild tea trees to many new hybrids.
Our trip to the east coast of Taiwan came to an end... We checked in Luye train station for a long ride (about 5 hours) to return to Taipei. The trip to visit Hualien and Taitung tea district is a new experience to our Taiwan Oolongs Study Tour. I feel so worth it and I know very well if without Director Wu' s passion and good preparation, this trip won't be so fulfilled.

2009 TOST - Cupping and Reviewing at Taitung Branch (6/25/2009)

TRES/Taitung Branch Director Wu gave all of us a PPS introduction about this facility. He also had 12 different teas that he thought we might not able to see from other tea districts. So we did cup Honey Green, Honey Oolong, Pomelo Flower scented Oolong, Red Oolong, Honey Black, Ruby 18, plus several Herbal blend Black teas in teabag form. (**All these herbs are from their experiment gardens) Mr. Wu told us that he doesn't want to miss great opportunity to listen to our members' opinions about their herbal blends and new iced teas.
Our members all worked very hard to cup and jog down the they were told that we are going to take turn to share the comments. We have not done the review until later...on an raining afternoon on 6/26 while we were waiting for the indoor withering of our Oriental Beauty... Please see these photos carefully, every one is seriously sharing and also listening to others' comments....what a great group we have! Not only I respect you all very much, the Double Rainbows also give all of us a Big Smile!

2009 TOST - Cupping and Reviewing at Wenshan Branch (6/22/2009)

We visited TRES/Wenshan Branch back on Mach for our scouting... At that time, we thought of Pouchong process will have several sessions of waiting among indoor withering. We have discussed about taking our members to visit tea gardens and also having a class room for Cupping and Reviewing different Pouchongs and Jade Oolongs based on various tea cultivars and finished tea's appearances. Here we are, a nice room right on the upstairs of withering room. Dr. Cheng hosts the tea cupping for our members. You might find the TV reporters and many guests joined us to do the cupping. We appreciate the generous support from TRES/Wenshan Branch and great arrangement by TTMA. What will be better, to hands on in each step of Pouchong processing, and get chance to review what we have done and learn to cup teas with so many tea masters on the site....

2009 TOST - How "Honey Oolong" is made? (6/25/2009@Taitung)

In the morning of 6/25/2009, we are visiting TRES Taitung Branch. We are the first group of tea pros from US and Canada that ever visit this Branch.
Before we were guided to the class room for the briefing and introduction, Mr. Wu, the Director of Taitung Branch, led us to their pilot tea plant to check out the tea leaf that spreaded on the bamboo trays for indoor withering... This is a special arrangement, so that our members got chance to see the so called "Honey Oolong" processing two hours later, after our briefing and cupping that prepared by Director Wu's team.
Taitung Branch under Director Wu, currently is working very hard to help their local tea farmers (including Hualien, Taitung, and Pingtung Counties) to experiment the Organic Practice, and Non-Toxic Practice (*means not to use Pesticides) in their tea plantations. They believe the special insects, the legendary Green Leaf Hoppers, might help them to produce excellent green tea, black tea and oolongs in this tea district with a very unique Honey touch.
The farmers will not waste the long summer crop in this district. Pluck the tea leaves that got
bitten by Green Leaf Hoppers, most tea leaves will be in one young sprout with 2 tender leaves intact. Besides the tea leaf, have you found any difference that our tea master has done differently after the leaves were pan-fired?
I have brought up an issue and also discussed with our group members: Honey Green, Honey Black, or Honey Oolong...might mislead consumers to the traditional flavored teas that with Honey flavoring added to it. Actually, these are naturally processed without any flavoring added...the unique Honey touch is due to the raw leaves they plucked and also the craftsmanship in tea processing. After our trip back from Taiwan, I have tried to create a trade mark: "Paoli" (please refer to the picture attached in this post.) I am thinking to name these teas: Paoli Green, Paoli Black, Paoli Oolong...instead of Honey Green... Paoli is after the angel:
Jacobiasca formosana Paoli.
We hope more inputs and discussion for this topic to find the proper way to help those tea farmers promote their unique tea to the connoisseurs in the World. May I hear from you?

Friday, October 9, 2009

2009 TOST - Stop by Dancing Crane Tea District (6/24/2009)

After our visit at the World famous Taroko National Park, we are heading south to Taitung. On the way, we stopped by a tea district in Rueisuey, Hualien. This tea district has a beautiful name - Dancing Crane, to describe the charming mountains and the surrounding river. Japanese used to produce Asame black tea from this district.
"Tropics of Cancer" line is crossing this area. We took a group picture here before we visited the tea gardens of Mr. Yeh and Mr. Kao, who invited us to taste their teas at their tea shops. Most farmers have their tea plants behind or beside ther tea retail stores. For the decade, tea farmers here actually enjoy good business of retailing their specialty teas, such as: Honey Green, Honey Black, Pomelo Oolong, Ruby 18... to the tourists, domestic and foreign.
The tea cultivars here mainly are Da-Yeh Oolong, Chin Sin Da Pan.. Many of the farmers moved here from northern Taiwan about 30 years ago. At that time, they were here to develop tea plantation and tried to make tea to supply to their home town or their head quarters in Taipei. We have seen many farmers are practicing organic or non-toxic (pesticide free) in their tea gardens. We were invited to Mr. Yeh Fa-Shan's big house to enjoy great fruits with nice tea. From his back yard, we got the best spot to see the famous River of Shiou-Gu-Ruan crossing through the Dancing Crane Mountains...(Josephine got few good shots of it.)
We were having a long day...and we all wonder: where and how our hotel in Taitung will be?

2009 TOST - A trip to Yilan Tea District (6/23/2009)

June 23, another day that we are up early...because our bus ride to Yilan will fight with Taipei's morning traffic. The trip is to visit Yilan, a county on the North East of Taiwan that facing the Pacific Ocean.
One of our members, Ken Rudee of Barnes & Watson Fine Teas, who won First prize at World Tea Expo 2009 for this tea garden's jade oolong, made April 15, 2009. Ken carried the award plaque all the way from Seattle to dedicate the prize to the real 'winner' Mr. Wu, Sheng-Ben. Taiwan's TV Channel also follows this news.
We have chances to taste the prizes teas and also get to visit the beautiful tea gardens there.
Taiwanese are so used to take breaks and have teas with good the tea hut there...our members were invited to have tea with them...
Do pay attention to the those photos of cuppings. During this trip, Thomas will remind every one to take memos for each cupping...the date, weather, cultivar...appearance, color of liquor, aroma, taste, finish...Good thing is we always find time to share the comments.

2009 TOST - Study tea plants on the fields @Wenshan (6/22/2009)

While we are waiting for indoor withering at Wenshan Branch, Jackson and David asked Mr. Tsai, the Assoicate agronomist, to guide our group to the tea fileds...Every one is busy catching or photoing the magical Green Leaf Hopper. TRES is experiencing organic tea plantation, so we got chance to learn different ways of handling those insects and weeds...
This is only our first day, and many members have felt the intense courses we have arranged for our program! More to see, more to learn...

2009 TOST - Pressed Tea DIY in Taitung (6/25/2009)

In TRES/Taitung Brach, Director Wu and his team have developped a set of toolings that can guide visitors to DIY your own Signature Preessed Tea. Josephine and I were here back on March in our scouting trip...we decided to convince Director Wu to include this session for our members. It is a fun experience for all of us to hands on to make the individual Pressed tea and place the signed label stuck on tope of each... Another souvenir for our field trip.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2009 TOST - Visit "19 Tea House" in Taipei (6/23/2009)

After we returned from Yilan tea district on 6/23/2009, we all agreed to have half an hour break and we will walk over to a cozy tea house in Ning Sia Road, very close to Jackson's office.

Josephine and I found out this new tea house on our previous trip (Mar/2009), we decided to add an evening here for our schedule.

Why? Their style is indeed very unique in Taipei. We thought it will be great to let our members to have a discussion here. (Look at our members in the pictures...every one has different opinion. Even Norman Shu, the Chairman of TTMA stayed with our group to observe our discussion. The owner, Mr. Kao also joined us for sharing his ideas...)

The building is an old wood stucture house with high ceiling located in Taipei's old district...few minutes away Yuan Huan Night Market. The owner Mr. Kao used to serve as Secretary Feneral for Taipei Tea Merchants Association... He found this place, and turn it around, but remain the feature, the remodel is very useful...A tea shop in the front, with a half-moon tea cupping and tasting counter for Mr. Kao to serve his new customers convienently...with every thing he needs for making a pot of tea... built around the counter... He got his tea and tea set dispaly very easy to browse...In the middle is a food stand and a bar counter for preparing tea and snacks to serve...Inside there are 5 tables for seating...perfect for some one who like to sip tea in a quiet corner, or to have a private party... (we like to know: do you like it?)

Mr. Kao told us he likes to use yixing teapot and cups...not in traditional small size...he insists that he wants to challenge his customers to use 500 cc pot and cup per order to enjoy tea...No refill... (we like to find out: can you take it?)

Okay, another reason we arrange our group to be here, because Mr. Kao has great snacks to go with your order... well, Josephine likes them... (we like to find out: do you like the modification of British Afternoon Tea to Mr. Kao's tea serving style?)

By the way, why name the tea house - "19 Tea House" ?
As seen on the sign hung on the wall that can be seen in our first photo - it might reflect Mr. Kao's philosophy:
"19" in Mandarin pronunciation means "Food & Wine" - he feels that fine tea has been set in a style of sipping in small cup...for a long long time...he will like to upset the traditionl...500 cc hot tea bottom up!? (You tell me.)