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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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

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

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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Last April, I was in China for a short tea sourcing trip. The main purpose of this trip was to visit my father in law in Huangshan. He happens to own a tea garden and factory in the middle of one of the mythical tea terroirs of China. You might have heard of Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea? Yet, this not tea that he makes at his garden. You see, my father in law is Taiwanese and a pioneer in his own discreet but original way. He chose to plant Taiwanese cultivars to make Taiwanese style teas right in the middle of China. And to add to the challenge, he decided to go organic right from the start, over 12 years ago. Now that’s what I call a true pioneering spirit! And very often, pioneers don’t have it so easy. This is even more the case when you’re a Taiwanese tea maker making tea in China.  This blog entry is my humble way to pay homage to him and his oeuvre.

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If you know Taiwan the slightest bit, you are probably aware of the omnipresence of scooters on this island. They are everywhere — scaringly so, some will say. Not only does everybody own one but Taiwan is also a major producer of these two-wheeled contraptions, and good ones too! And, if you know the author of these lines a bit, you will know that I’ve been an adopter of this component of the Taiwanese lifestyle well before I became a resident of this island. Read more

 Today, Taiwan Tea Crafts proposes a short historical chronology to explain the presence, and rebirth, of Black Tea in Taiwan. There’s nothing like a good story to make us further appreciate the tea we are sipping, especially if you are drinking a superb black tea from Taiwan!

It may come as a surprise to many tea enthusiasts that only consider Taiwan as a source of magnificent oolongs, but Taiwan has also a long history of producing black teas that date back to the early 1920’s. Then under Japanese rule, Taiwan was chosen as the territory to launch an economic offensive to compete against the rule, if not the monopoly, of the British Empire over black tea. Why such a venture you may ask? We are not sure to be quite frank (in fact, we will research this further and get back to you on it). Nevertheless, Yuchi township, situated on the shores of the scenic Sun Moon Lake of central Taiwan, was chosen for it’s perfect climate and soil for the growing of Assamica tea bushes and build a successful black tea industry. Read more