This year, you really had to believe in spring to garner the hope that winter’s cold and wet grasp would finally let go of this tropical island. Today, April 9th, we can finally say that the expected weather is upon us and spring teas are finally happening in Taiwan! Needless to say, this is an exciting time of the year for us as well as many of you who have kept us busy with emails and social media inquiries asking what to expect, and when to expect, the new spring teas on Taiwan Tea Crafts. Here’s our report after a first 10 days of visits to tea gardens along with more in-depth information that we couldn’t easily include in a short email response. We hope this first factual blog entry will help you make informed choices here and elsewhere on the web. For those who don’t want to read further, don’t worry, it’s all good! For the others, it gets even better…
Après un trop long silence, il fallait faire un retour remarqué… Nous marquons donc le coup en français, pardi! et pour une bonne raison!: Nous annonçons notre venue en sol européen au cours des 2 premières semaines de juin, et plus particulièrement celui de la francophonie européenne où nous comptons un nombre toujours grandissant d’amis du thé de Taïwan.
For those of you who landed here attracted by our tongue in cheek Halloween themed promotion of this post, you may be disappointed not to hear us reveal stories of Taiwanese haunted tea gardens or evil spirits lurking along the rows of bushes in our tea growing town, although I am sure the local folklore must have a full repertoire of them. Rest assured, our post remains entertaining and reveals not often seen images of how tea gardens die, cruelly we admit, but sometimes, get a new lease on life like in the case of this one. The element of surprise is present, horror is also there but not through primal emotions. The story we are telling today exemplifies the consequences of the prevailing conventional ways of tea farming that rely heavily and systematically on fertilizers and pesticides and, in a soon to be published second part, how new approaches to tea farming are making their way with practices that have a good foothold in tradition but also consider new ideas like sustainability as a guiding factor. This is a story that we’ve followed closely for the last year as it concerns one of our family’s newly leased tea gardens.
Children and tea, two words that are not frequently associated and certainly not in ways that implies a positive connection in certain western countries. Curiously, it is usually those same countries that consider normal to serve high sucrose content beverages and other processed concoctions from the food industry to their children… and here ends our social commentary. Our aim is not to condemn the idiosyncrasies of the West and certainly not to issue a moralizing critique of it. We aim today to celebrate, by way of example, how tea is an all-inclusive beverage here in Taiwan drunk by all generations, children alike.
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.
You must have heard it by now, spring teas are now upon us. Many of you, I am sure, are experiencing physical and emotional waves of anticipation for the festive pleasure in tasting the freshness of spring in your cup. The new tea arrivals listing you can find on our welcome page and individual product catalog pages is growing day by day as soon as new lots are confirmed. Another sure sign that spring is in the air is the flow of emails/messages coming in asking when such and such a tea is expected to be in. As much as we like to give a personalised answer to all of you, we felt this gave us an opportunity to explain some of the guiding principles that explains the scattered arrival of teas from different areas of the island. Based on these and with fresh reports coming from the gardens themselves, we’ve prepared a graphic chart giving you a schedule of expected arrival dates for the spring of 2014. Read more
Chinese New Year Day is not a day of rest for everybody in Taiwan. Commercial activity thrives on that day. This is particularly the case in our small tea-making village of Songboling up on the western edge of the Bagua ridge in central Taiwan. Many families from the surrounding cities flock-up to our village making the population swell 10 folds. And on beautiful sunny days like this year, if feels more like 20 times! What are they here for? To visit our famous temple, first and foremost, but at the same time enjoy a leisurely stroll on the main street of our picturesque village while nibbling on the many street food offerings from all the vendors lining up the street, or maybe perhaps trek down the 400 m ridge to go and visit the colony of Formosan macaques that inhabit the escarpment. Whatever brings you here on that day, our shop owners and other enterprising folks are happy to find a way to get you to spend some of the money received from those red envelopes handed out the night before.
It’s that time of the year again!… How time flies, doesn’t it! A year ago, when we sat down and devised a Top 10 list of our 2012 tea selection, Taiwan Tea Crafts was barely 1 month old and we had to articulate a selection all by ourselves. Now, the picture is quite different: we have a community of followers and fantastic customers that span the 5 continents of this small planet, and we know that each one of you is articulate and opinionated about the teas you received from us. Many of you have voiced your reactions and feedback to us by email or via our Facebook page and we sincerely appreciate hearing from you by any means. But now, in the true sharing spirit that tea instills in all of us, as well as the seasonal festive spirit that inhabits some parts of the world (and because we selfishly admit to loving top 10 lists…), we launch an appeal to hear from you here, on this page, right down there in the Reply Box! Let us know what was your tea of the year, or top 3, or top 10… We’d love to hear from you! Any impressions and justifications to substantiate your choice will be further appreciated by all, I am sure. On Jan. 6, 2014, we will take in consideration all of your comments to devise a definitive Top 10 List to be published here. Now this is all good fun, but it also requires a bit of work, doesn’t it? Well, we thought of that. The good news is that we’re making worthwhile for you to participate by making this a contest as well! Read more
Everyone with an interest in Taiwanese teas has heard of Alishan or Shanlinxi High Mountain teas, to name only these two contiguous tea regions. But what about Meishan, Shibi, or Sancengping? For most, this could possibly be the first time you hear about these tea producing areas. But, on the other hand, if you drink some Alishan or Shanlinxi labelled teas, there is a good chance you’ve experienced drinking teas from these same areas without knowing it! This is often the case and a reality one must face in the nebulous world of Taiwanese tea marketing. But before jumping to conclusions of fraudulent misrepresentation or mischievous distribution practices please read-on as we reveal some of the underlying practices dictated by the local tea market and, ultimately, attempt to define guidelines as to what constitutes a tea terroir that deserves its own distinctive recognition. What better way to do this than to pay a visit and explore the area for a little fact finding mission in the “no-name” mountains of Meishan, Shibi and Sancengping on a beautiful sunny Sunday in early December. As usual, many pictures accompany the words. And for a limited time, a special offer concludes the entry! Read more
In Taiwan, typical work weeks hover between 6 and 7 days of work. At least, this is the case in our small tea growing community of Mingjian Township in the middle of the island. Here, life evolves around work. Employees at our facilities are scheduled to call-in from Monday to Saturday inclusively leaving them with a day of reprieve on Sunday. However, customers, tea producers and suppliers can, and do, drop-in any day of the week at anytime they wish during the day… or night making our work week seem just like it is: a week of work! It is not uncommon during the critical growing seasons, like it is the case now with the high mountain winter tea picking season in full swing, to receive the visit of growers coming down from their respective mountains with a trunk load of their just finished, freshly produced tea to arrive at our doorstep in the late evening hours to propose their treasure after we’ve retired to our sleeping quarters. This has been an occurrence for generations now in this house. Read more