Good bye Taiwan! Heading to Japan today with the tour group. The hospitality and warmth of the people in Taiwan were appreciated by all. My good brother Alfonso says, after all the good food there, ’ I feel cheated after all these years in the U.S.!’ A bit of real food was such a revelation.
A fun time is had by all: My tour group is enjoying the warm hospitality of the farmers and Taiwanese people.
Harvest time for Tung Ting will be in mid November this year for the winter crop. It is getting later each year, due to massive weather pattern changes. Not good, but that is what we face. My tour group is taking turns coming up with new stories. Perhaps, there will be a typhoon tea! That is, whatever is left on the ground after the mad typhoon hits in a couple of days.
Taiwan Beauty is special. It can not happen without those tiny cicadas called Leaf Hoppers. Though this style of tea was discovered by accident, today, a whole different way of agriculture to production method, has been devised to create a tea that is a confluence of nature’s conditions. But some outrageous requirements remain that pushes this tea to the edge of impossibility. 70-80 year olds are the only ones dexterous and experienced enough to harvest the top grades, particularly for the competition. Read- some 50 or more years of experience required. Then, every single precious leaf has to be intact without breakage during processing, a crucial aspect of which is the hand oxidation. That takes more than years of experience and skill- it requires talent and extremely sensitive hands. But the difficulty of the production of Taiwan Beauty is in the overwhelming heat under which it is produced. As the top producer of this tea says: it is not a tea that a human can endure to make. So, we savored every drop today.
The Ghost Face spider and the Five Venoms: not everyone is so interested in the multitude of bugs at the Taiwan Beauty farm. He hangs, like the dismembered head of a circus ringmaster, his top hat still atop and grinning away at the prospect of incoming victims. Here at the Taiwan Beauty farm, the ugly duckling tea bushes are sparse little groves in a field of overgrown weeds, and the bugs rule. We arrived into a sky filled with circling dragonflies, with enormous webs from tea bush to tree, and sitting there waiting? The Ghost Face Spider! I explained to my tour group that this is nature at work. Taiwan Beauty is an oolong tea that results from the bites of the tiny Leaf Hopper cicadas. For that, a habitat of wildness must be maintained for their benefit, and that habitat is also welcoming to the rest of the bug kingdom. In comes the giant Ghost Face Spider to take care of the unwanted other bugs- giant crickets, preying mantis, even a sparrow or two.
He hangs in the sky, grinning madly and silently, waiting….
Pinglin, Wenshan- an appellation famous for what is known as the ‘fragrance of Taiwan’. Most of us city slickers can not understand how the air can smell like a perfume atelier in a big open mountain, that the breeze carries the sweetly intense fragrance of gardenias and ginger flowers. Along the way trekking through the Baochong tea farm, we found out that a devastating typhoon from 2 months ago had wiped out 2/3 of the tea production that would be this coming winter. Seeing the little infant tea branches newly planted in the 60 degree hills, praying that the upcoming typhoon will spare the massive soil run off, the tragedy and glory of great tea is intertwined together. Great teas are grown on steep high mountains, which are subject to the landslide of typhoon drenched soil. We live by the weather, explained Wenshan Mr. Lee, matter of factly. I realized at that moment that these tea farmers accept circumstances as is, and does not assign blame to anyone. They simply face forward and keep going.
Let the games begin- I may have the ultimate eating entourage this trip. These folks can pack it away. Asians live to eat, but the Americans are catching up fast. I counted just 8 meals myself the other day, and today, as soon as the plane touched down, my tour group has not stopped eating long enough to breathe! In between, there is tea. Taiwan is the ultimate tea country after all and the reason for this tour….let’s see how much tea this group can drink. I had a glimpse of how much they can eat and it’s already frightening!