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…

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the tea garden shredder in action

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.

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Father and son walking through Bagua tea garden

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

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

Last May 24th, we were graced with a beautiful full moon night in our little tea making village of Songboling, on the edge of the Baguashan ridge in Nantou County. Coincidentally, this was also a busy night in the village, not in the bars (there are none) or in other hangouts, but in the tea making workshops all lined-up next to each other along the Main Street. All the ground levels of the typical 3 story concrete dwellings that make up the street were lit-up and workers were busy feeding the chirping drum heaters, dryers and ball rolling machines required to process and make Taiwan oolong tea. In one of those workshops, a special tea was being made: it was ours. Made from leaves freshly picked earlier that day from our recently acquired fields of Si Ji Chun bushes, it was now in the skillful hands of the Yi family to turn it into a finished tea. Follow-us today as we give a chronological account in pictures and video on the making of our Four Seasons Oolong Tea, Lot 244 and pay a well-deserved homage to the people that make your tea.

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Of all the tea cultivars that are unique to Taiwan, none is more precious and intriguing as the wild indigenous mountain tea bush also known as Shan Cha (山茶). If you think that centuries-old wild tea trees with 30 cm leaves can only be found in the forests of Yunnan (not to forget India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam), think again. You must add Taiwan to the list! This unique specimen is not only of great interest as a varietal tea, it is also important and revered as the father (or mother) plant to some of the most unique and distinctive tea hybrids of Taiwan. For example, it is from this unique wild strand that the Taiwan Research and Experiment Station (TRES) has successfully developed the now famous TRES-18 Red Jade black tea which has fueled the black tea revival on this island since the turn of this new century. Four distinct protected areas have been put in place in central, south and eastern Taiwan for the preservation of this national treasure. Of these four protected areas, the one that is reputed to make the best varietal tea happens to be just up in the eastern range close to Taiwan Tea Crafts’ base, in the Township of Yuchi of our Nantou County. Follow us as we climb the hills to hunt down specimens of these wild bushes and witness at the same time the transformation of a local economy brought about by the revival of black tea.

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Fresco at the entrance of the Atayal Village of Cuiluan

Today we introduce a new category of postings called: Meet the tea makers. Most of our followers will have noticed that there is not so much space on our site devoted to long exposés on how such and such a tea tastes, or even worse, on how it should taste. We let our teas do the talking and convincing, or reviewers and bloggers give their unbiased opinions on the subject. Nor do we have, or will ever have, a section called “tea knowledge”. We believe tea is not something that can be taught. It needs to be experienced, and one must follow his own path at its own pace in his or her journey in discovering the pleasures of tea. There are different levels to this enjoyment, from casual to more ceremonial, and we don’t put any of these expressions above the other. Again, the concepts of right or wrong in the way one enjoys his tea has no bearing on the pleasure one experiences in drinking it. Enhancing this pleasure is, and will always remain, our fundamental guideline at Taiwan tea Crafts. We believe the best way we can do this is to be as transparent as possible by emphasizing accessibility to the best teas and proposing the most unbiased information about them. This is why we don’t splash our faces everywhere on the site, nor do we waste your time in imposing our wisdom on the subject. if this is you cup of tea,there are already many who do this if you like this kind of approach, and there is certainly no need for another one here. Our aim is to be the best conduit possible between you and the Taiwanese people, culture and land that bring you such exceptional teas. We will admit to one thing though: we are biased about Taiwan and we tend to use many superlatives when talking about anything from this island. Please see in this tendency nothing more than a mere expression of our enthusiasm and love for this country and its people, and a passion for our work here at Taiwan Tea Crafts.

This being said, giving space on our website to present some of the people responsible for the teas we propose and make available to you was the next natural step for us. And to launch this series, we chose the hardest person to present as he has become a good friend of ours, Mr. Gao, the maker behind our Lishan High Mountain Spirit Oolong Tea. If you wish to follow us, let’s travel together in words and pictures up to his village in the Lishan range, as we did last Fall to pick-up our Winter Lot from him.

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Waves of tea in a sea of bamboo

An entry full of pictures and very little words today. If it’s a rainy day in your neck of the woods like it has been for weeks here in central Taiwan, we’d like to cheer you up and show you how overcast days are probably the best moments to visit high mountain tea gardens here in Taiwan, as well as put a bit of colour in your day. We invite you to follow us as we move up into the central mountains to visit Lugu, the tea gardens of the Dalun and Longfengxia ridges of Shanlinxi and move back down the mountain into Zhushan Township and its “sea of bamboo”. We promise it will be breathtaking, and we will end out trip with a very rare sighting that’s well worth the peak. All you need for the full 3D effect is a good cup of high mountain oolong to enjoy the ride. Hop in!

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