A thousand guests for tea on the lawn at dusk in Nantou, Taiwan


Today, a post of a few words. Pictures will dominate and hopefully do the work in conveying the essence of my thoughts. Not that there is nothing to say about this event, on the contrary. It’s finding the right words to express what this entails to me that is more than arduous. There’s nothing heavy here, all is good and positive. Very simply put, the event pictured in this post, represents, to me, what tea is all about, what Taiwan is all about, and especially what the wonderful people of Nantou County are all about and how all this combines into one distinctive holistic entity. It is why I now live here. It is why I have chosen, through Taiwan Tea Crafts, to try to be the humble emissary of this country’s dynamic tea culture.

The event pictured below takes place once a year, during the Nantou Global Tea Expo held each October in Nantou County’s Zhongxing Village. The expo in itself is a real fête celebrating all that is tea, with tea growers and producers from all over the County presenting their offerings under long red-coloured canopies. Here, presenting obviously means having you taste! There are even local produce stands to showcase the diversity of Nantou’s agricultural output from high-mountain apples, to high-mountain honey (all as good as the high-mountain tea). There’s even room given to the local coffee producers which are gaining more and more followers, rightfully so! Tea crafts’ people are there to present their wares. Tea competitions of all sorts are held, and a whole hall is dedicated to showcase the different tea ceremonies and typical rituals associated with the serving of tea in many tea cultures. For any tea enthusiast, this 9 day festival is a must! And, according to this writer, if there was one event not to miss it would be the “Tea gathering of a thousand people” held during the first weekend of the festivities.

In essence, at the end of one afternoon as the sun sets, the old military parade grounds of the Expo site serve as a gathering of tea ceremony practitioners of all levels and schools, formally trained or not, to come and pào chá (泡茶) “make tea” for everyone and anyone wishing to attend. This is all done in the true spirit of tea: there is no exchange of money, no tips, all is done for the simple pleasure of sharing tea with others. Some of the “tea makers” are seasoned practitioners, many are not. What is reassuringly pleasant is to witness the wide diversity of people it gathers: men, women and many children of all ages are there to entice you to taste their tea. Each participant is allotted a space where he is free to set-up as he wishes. Water is distributed and this is about it, the rest is for the participant to provide. It is always a treat to go around to admire the different stagings, many with announced themes that inspire the choice of decoration, the tea instruments used and the tea that is served. Some are quite elaborate, others stand-out for their humble simplicity. All forms of expression are welcome and, maybe because the serving of tea is the underlying purpose, all done with good taste.

Everyone speaks the language of tea: the one where no word needs to be spoken. Gestures of appreciation and respect are the only appreciated requirements.

Showcasing the serving of tea without anybody to partake is pointless, tea is a living art, it requires the interactive dynamics of a receiver. And this is when the magic starts: when people of all walks of life, multi-generational families, couples, friends flock to come and participate. Not because the tea and snacks are free, but more so to immerse themselves in the harmonious spirit that tea entails. It is lively but not brash. It can be ceremonial but never ceremonious, and certainly not exclusive. It is all inclusive, there are no discrimination, no selection, no boundaries, not even the one of language. Everyone speaks the language of tea: the one where no word needs to be spoken. Gestures of appreciation and respect are the only appreciated requirements. Tea transcends all, allowing us to believe that harmony in this world is accessible. It certainly was, here, on this lawn, on this Sunday afternoon, in Nantou Taiwan.



Check back with us soon for our second picture report of this event featuring the children of tea.  


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