Today was the day our group began our study of the tea fields in Taiwan. We headed out to the WenShan Tea District which is famous for its Pouchong teas. It wasn't a far drive from Taipei toWenShan, so we arrived fresh and ready to learn. Although we arrived fresh, the weather prevented any of us from having good hair days! We were blessed to only have intermittent rain as typhoons seemed to be on our heals the whole time we were in Taiwan and Japan.
Our first stop was to a school for tea farmers called WenShan Pouchong Farm that is owned and managed by the Taipei County Farmers' Association. For me, this was so exciting because it was my first chance to see tea fields outside the US. The school is for consumer education and also for Pouchong tea promotion. Mr. Yang (pictured on the left with our host Thomas Shu on the right) graciously showed us around the farm. He was excited to share with us their growing and propagation techniques including their efforts to be organic. We tasted some wonderful Pouchongs and left for our next adventure, but not before stopping by for some wishes for good fortune. This statue below was built to celebrate the year of the tiger. It is the Chinese god of prosperity riding on the golden tiger to bring good fortune to all!
After leaving the tea farm with much fortune on our side, we headed to Bopiliao Culture Village. What a treat for our group as we unloaded the bus and walked down the hill, to be greeted by the group singing and clapping for us. This will always be a special memory for me and this was not the only treat the group had in store for us.
Volunteers from all over the area had been working for over a week to prepare a wonderful vegetarian feast with all the food having tea as an ingredient in it! If you know how passionate I am about cooking with tea, you know how exciting this was for me and I am sure it was for the rest of our group as well. This table was filled with a wonderful assortment of entrees.
This was our dessert table below.
After having a wonderful lunch and some tea, we settled in to learn about the center, the group that supports it, and their mission to train farmers about organic farming methods. I thought you might think it was funny for me to post my feet after talking about food, but I was so impressed with how clean this center was. We were all required to take off our street shoes and wear slippers! Not only did we have good hygiene, but I do think it was quite the fashion statement too!
The group is a Buddhist organization working with the Tse-Xin Foundation which means "mercy heart." Their mission is to promote religion, culture and life, and charity. They do this by hoping every member will have a happy and healthy life, help the environment to remain healthy, and also to promote charity with their mission. The charity work is done through their foundation that supports local tea farmers to take up organic practices in their farming. They work to help teach the farmers how to introduce organic methods such as using bean sugarcane for fertilizer instead of chemical ones. To put their charity mission into practice, the foundation will pick up 50% of the loss the farmers will sustain as they convert their farms over to organic. They had a wonderful PowerPoint for us in addition to their presentation. I believe our group learned quite a bit.
We were supposed to walk through some of the tea fields that had been converted to organic, but due to the rains caused by the ever impending typhoon, we just toured them by bus. We then headed back to Taipei to get ready for our next adventure. We needed to pack for two nights away as we were heading out to the Sun Moon Lake area. We would need plenty of sleep because the next night we all would be up very late making our VERY OWN Classic Tung Ting Oolong.
In my next blog, I will tell you all about my exciting TEA-MAKING ADVENTURE!
Lisa Boalt Richardson is the author of the award-winning Tea with a Twist, Entertaining and Cooking with Tea and The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions Near and Far. She is now working on her third tea book due out by Spring 2014 with Chronicle Books. She travels the country speaking at conferences and special events focusing on her culinary arts and specialty tea expertise. As one of the first 15 in the world to graduate from the Specialty Tea Institute in 2008, Lisa holds the title of “Certified Tea Specialist”. She resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children.