I’m leaving Monday for a week long tea buyers tour with one of our vendors. Taiwanese teas have always been my favorite, and I’m very excited to experience them first hand. Not only will we be seeing some harvesting and production, but we’ll be meeting the producers, the people that pick the leaves and roll them. Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to experiencing how they approach tea drinking. I’ve heard many good things about their tea houses, and I’m fascinated by the beautiful vessels and tools that they brew and serve with. You can bet that I’m going to have a very full suitcase coming home.
As it stands, a group of about 6 of us will meet in Taipei next Tuesday (or is it Wednesday? The travel and time differences are so great). Winnie Yu, owner of Teance and our experienced guide will take us to Wenshan, Taipei for baochong oolongs. Then to the Maokong teashops “on top of Taipei City”- not sure what that means exactly, but I’m looking forward to finding out. That evening we’ll visit one of the night markets and eat street food. I have a facination with street food- it’s at once wonderful and horrible. Wonderful because it’s such a good representation of the local food culture, but horrible because I’ve gotten sick in the past. The unfortunate reality is that my midwestern American stomach does not contain the same type of flora and fauna. Was it worth it to eat those double fried pork cheek tacos in Tapalpa, Mexico? Hell yes. Did it totally suck to be sick to my stomach for a few days afterwards, yes. But, I got over it and remember the tacos more than the queasiness.
Day two: Shinjhu, Taichung. We’ll be visiting the place where the famed Taiwan Beauty Oolong is made. This tea has been a fascination of mine because it gets help from pin-sized ‘leaf hoppers’ (which are actually mini cicadas, I’ve been told). The little leaf hoppers munch on the leaves and start the oxidation process before they are even plucked- the result is that this tea has a totally unique taste. It cannot be reproduced anywhere else- it’s a great example of terroir. Then, we’re off to Nantou, Taichung for the Si Ji Chun Four Seasons Oolong.
Day three we visit Tung Ting ‘Cold Summit’ Mountain for some early morning tea harvesting. Following that, we’ll go to the local tea museum and meet with a farmer’s co-op. Since tea is processed soon after harvesting, we’ll see the morning’s pickings being harvested late into the night. That evening we’ll be staing in a cabin at the base of San Lin She.
On day four we’ll hike up San Lin She for some ‘high mountain’ oolongs- my favourite tea. It’s a steep mountain, and I’m excited for the smells and the views. From the photos I’ve seen, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful terraced mountain top, sometimes shrouded in mist. We’ll tour around the mountain, see some harvesting and production.
On the last day we’ll return to Taipei in the morning and visit the pottery district. There is a big meal planned and then we all part ways that evening.
If I have time and internet access, I’ll post while I’m there. I’m taking a camera that can record still shots and video.