Tuesday, September 27, 2016

October's Further Readings

Voices from The Hut

Elevated: Reflections

by Kaelen Ohm @kaelenohm

Sun Moon Lake’s ‘Elevation’ Red was the first living red tea that graced me with Her presence. She joined the third Global Tea Hut magazine that I received in August 2015. My introduction to tea meditation and ceremony was through a few special sheng and shou puerh teas. I had never even heard of those teas before and I quickly labelled them as exotic beings that were the most meditative and most able to provide a transcendent experience. Such strong opinions for a new Chajin! Upon reading about this red tea in the issue “Fire, “The Teacher of Tea”” I learned that it was, after all, not black tea as I had known my whole life living in Canada. I opened the tin to a recognizable aroma, something that resembled a tea that would be mixed with milk and sugar and served with cookies at my grandmother’s house. I closed the tin and stored it away, deciding quickly that this tea was nowhere near as glamorous as the earthy, astringent and oily teas that I had experienced in my short time with the leaf.

One morning, many moons later, I was feeling particularly studious and decided to sit with this tea from Sun Moon Lake and see what She had to teach me. I referenced back to the magazine for some brewing tips, boiled the water as carefully as I could, set up my Chaxi with a side handle pot and bowl and opened my heart to give Her a chance to transcend my original judgments.

I was floored.

As for any life changing tea-ceremony it is often hard to find words, yet impossible to forget. I sat with Her again one year later to access that first experience. The memories flooded in, a story that I am so grateful to be able to share.

From the first sip, I felt all tension in my physical body sink like silt in a river. From my crown to the tips of my toes, the calm travelled, pausing at my heart centre and sending a strong, soothing Qi to all ends of my being. I really noticed this tea and all She was offering in those moments. It was the first time in my relationship with tea that I was truly present. I noticed the deep caramel elixir and the weight and density of the liquor. I noticed the feeling in my mouth, coated with a warm sweetness, coupled with a slight zest down the centre of my tongue and a very light astringency after each mouthful. The essence of roasted peaches and light, nutty, vanilla flavours swirled in my mouth. As I went deeper, bowl by bowl, the curling smoke of the burning Aloeswood, the steam from the kettle, the flutes through the speakers, the soft hiss of the fire heating the water and me, all became one. There was no separation. Nothing to be lost and nothing to be gained.

Needless to say, after many over-steeped pots, brewing tea that was beyond my experience level at that stage of my practice, this was a magical gift to receive. I sighed many audible sighs through that sit, tears of joy streaming down myface. Being one that has experienced a lot of anxiety in my life, this feeling was true bliss. I felt heard, I felt held. It may have been this tea that grounded me into this practice for the long term. “This is all for you”, She said. Yet, simultaneously all I wanted in that moment was to project love and gratitude for all I had experienced, particularly the hardships and the challenges. Suddenly I felt that I had a true Teacher, something that was greater than me and could educate me, but that was me. It was not something or someone that led by example and was to be attained to, though I do not discredit the importance of having a Master to follow in a life of practice. However, it was something I understood was there for me and seemingly could be accessed at any time and any place. So I bow with endless gratitude to Sun Moon Lake’s Elevation for not only humbling my shallow judgments, but opening up an opportunity for me to see my own potential in practice. I go back to this tea often, sprinkling a few leaves in a bowl, taking a deep breath and surrendering to the endless teachings and heavenly space She holds.

1) Tea of the Month, Issue 33, Oct. 2014, pp. 3-8

It’s that time of the year again! The only tea we repeat every year; the return of the classic Sun Moon Lake red tea we’ve come to call “Elevation”. The tea for this month is one of our all-time favorite teas, and the one we send home with every traveler who stops at our center!

You could say it’s our signature tea: the one we use to introduce new tea wayfarers to the path—the first wayside sign on the road. It’s also one of the teas we like to serve when we set up our roadside huts, serving tea to passersby.

Since this month’s issue is all about Qi cultivation through a tea practice, this is the perfect tea. Elevation is full of a bright and radiant Qi that moves with verve, making it easy to begin experiencing this aspect of tea appreciation. Later on in this issue, we’ll discuss some things you can do to prepare for an experience of the Qi in tea and in yourself, connecting to a meditative mind through this month’s tea session. This amazing red tea is definitely a Living Tea, in all the ways we have been discussing in previous issues of these newsletters: It is seed-propagated, the trees have room and space to grow, there is a living relationship with the local ecology— undergrowth, plants, insects, animals, molds and bacteria—and there are, of course, no chemicals used in its production. 

The trees also have a healthy relationship with the people who care for them, achieving all five measures of Living Tea! (Check the box on the opposite page for the new sixth.) It shines with a bright and uplifting energy that makes it the perfect morning tea, radiating your day and filling it with “elevation”. It is simple and true, and you feel like you know it after your first bowl, as if a beloved friend from another lifetime returned.

As you may remember, there are two main varietals of tea: small leaf and big leaf. Originally, all tea comes from the forests in and around Southwest China: Yunnan, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Eastern India. The original trees were single-trunked, with large wide crowns that can grow several meters in height. The roots are also deep, extending down into the earth before branching. Then, as Tea traveled north and east—naturally or by human hands—it adapted to colder, sometimes higher, climates and terroir. These trees, called “small leaf ”, developed to have several trunks, like a bush, with roots that extend outwards rather than down. The leaves got smaller and smaller as Tea progressed north into colder climes, until they get so small in places like Japan that, when they are rolled, they look like little needles (like sencha or gyokuro). Our tea of the month is a large leaf varietal, like puerh. When the Japanese conquered Taiwan, they wanted to develop several long-term agricultural projects to help their economy. They brought many large-leaf trees and saplings, as well as seeds, from Eastern India to make red tea plantations, choosing Sun Moon Lake for its accessibility and for the way the terroir was similar to the original homes of these trees. Soon after, the Japanese were expelled and their gardens were abandoned.

In the coming decades, these semi-wild gardens would grow up and also produce completely wild
offspring, as well as adapting and relating to the local terroir in all the amazing ways a tea tree can—
through the soil, the insects, rain and minerals, sun and rock. Our tea comes from one such small, organic and ecological garden consisting primarily of semi-wild trees with some wild ones scattered throughout. The farmer, Mr. Shu, is an amazing man. Many of his neighbors have utilized their gardens to create more industrial tea plantations and get rich. He says he only wants enough to provide for his family, and therefore keeps it simple and organic. He has even bought up some nearby property so that he can control the proximity his trees have to anything harmful that others may be using. For that reason, the tea is incredibly clean and bright, speaking to its long heritage here in these mountains, and beyond to the older forests its ancestors once lived in at the foot of the great Himalayas.

Mr. Shu is a second-generation farmer with an incredible attitude. While his neighbors constructed
new-and-improved houses with satellite dishes, he stayed humble, simple and in love with his work and trees. Last year, there was a drought compounded by pests that decimated the area—insects that come only every decade or so. When we talked to him about it, he responded with great wisdom, proving that—like the ancient Daoist texts— even the simplest people can achieve harmony with the Dao, mastery of life and a great wisdom that we all can learn from. He said that at that time, he received less. If he were to stress about that, or worse yet compromise his values and turn to pesticides for help, it would be like rejecting his destiny, arguing with Heaven.
Furthermore, he said that it would show how ungrateful he was for what Nature had given him. “We should be grateful for what Nature provides and accept the times that Heaven takes from us—learning from times of having less, or even losing what we have, as much as in times of abundance. We all will face lack and loss sooner or later. If you resist and argue with Heaven that your destiny is 
 unfair, you don’t learn and there will be greater misfortune later. Better to accept whatever Nature gives us and be grateful for it. I have less this year, but it is okay because I saved when I had more last year; and maybe next year I will have more again.” There couldn’t be deeper life lessons than these!

Once again, it is important to understand that what most Westerners call “black tea” is actually “red tea”. Ordinarily, it doesn’t matter what something is called, but in this case there is actually a problem, because there is another kind of Chinese tea that is called “black tea” (characterized by post-production, artificial fermentation). So if you call red tea “black tea”, then what do you call black tea? The reasons for this error are to do with the long distances tea once traveled in chests to Europe, and even more importantly with the general lack of information for the first few hundred years tea was traded. Europeans weren’t allowed inland in those days, and never saw the tea trees nor the processing of the leaves. You could see how easy it would be to spread misinformation, buying tea through middlemen in broken pidgin. We repeat this every time we send a red tea, because it is an important mistake that we tea lovers have to correct, so that the real black tea can have its name back!

Most red tea is processed in 3-4 phases: first it is picked and then it is withered, traditionally on bamboo trays stacked on shelves built to hold them. The withering of red tea is very long, usually from twelve to twenty-four hours. It is then rolled for an exceptionally long time, to continue the oxidation and break down the cells. It literally turns into a pasty mass in the process. Then it is dried, usually in an oven. Our tea, however, is completely different. The farmers think we are crazy, but we ask them to decrease the withering and the rolling period, leaving some green in the leaves, which you will see when you brew them (essentially, we’ve asked that the tea be less oxi- dized than that which is produced commercially). The reason for the complete oxidation in normal red tea processing is to make the tea sweet and delicious. Nevertheless, we have found that such extreme processing removes some of the tea’s Qi, and distances it from the mountain and deep essence it touches. This is especially relevant when the tea leaves were plucked from old-growth, big leaf tea trees. The leaves of these large-leaf trees are often bitter and astringent, but we can accept a bit of that along with the sweetness, can’t we? And isn’t that a significant life lesson as well? In the end, we’d rather have a slightly less delicious tea with incredible and relaxing Qi than the other way around. Mr. Shu smiles and says he likes our quirkiness. We hope you will understand why we make our red tea like this. We don’t produce it for sale, only for free. We only wish we could give it to you for less.

This year the tea was a bit more oxidized than usual, due to a lack of rainfall. Mr. Shu still decreased the withering and rolling for us, but not as much as in previous years. The raw tea leaves themselves were also more astringent, so a bit more oxidation was necessary. For these reasons, we stored the tea for a few months before sending it to you, allowing the flavors to mellow out and the Qi to become smoother and softer.

A Bowl of tea - Leaves and water

There are really as many ways to brew tea as there are tea lovers, steeping and pouring in general patterns more than a strictly defined methodology. A good master doesn’t ask that her students ape what she has collected, but respect it and learn from it. The ancient Daoist masters often admonished that the wise man reveres the ancients, applying their wisdom without mimicking it. Each and every tea journey gathers its own understanding and insight, tea and teaware, friends and teachers—a liquid metaphor of life itself.

Years ago, master Zhou Yu taught me one of the most powerful ways of brewing tea, which I also pass on to my students as they begin to explore the world of tea. When he taught it to me, he suggested it for beginners and masters alike. He said that he prefers to teach only that which can be continued throughout the journey. There are many convenient, simple and inexpensive ways to teach a beginner to brew tea, but many of them then need to be put aside as they progress in skill and develop a palate. Taking master Zhou Yu’s words to heart, I also never teach anything that will later be put aside. I think trust between teacher and student requires that we pass along only that which we would use ourselves.

Now, I thought I would pass on this wonderful brewing technique to you, and along with it explore some of the many ways that it is useful in your journey: There really isn’t much to it, you just put a few leaves of tea in a bowl and add hot water. Bowl, leaves and water. You want to use a bowl that is more open, wider and V-shaped, though any bowl will do. It is also nicer if the bowl is a special, handmade piece of pottery. We have found that tienmu (rabbit’s fur) bowls work the best for this. The beauty in their patterns, and the thickness of the glaze help bring out the best in tea brewed in this way. Zhou Yu, being a master, has gathered to him great teaware, handing you a Song Dynasty tienmu tea bowl when you drink such tea with him—slightly cracked and worn, the ancient bowl still sings with energy.

You don’t need much tea for this, just a few leaves. We have found that this is actually the best way to brew old-growth, newborn Puerh. Since newborn tea has not yet fermented, its nature is cold according to Chinese medicine. It can sometimes be harsh on the stomach. However, a few leaves in a bowl turns out lighter, smoother, less bitter and less harsh on the body. The result is much more fascinating and profound. We also drink old-growth Taiwanese oolong and red tea in this way, the latter of which is Taiwan’s only variety of camellia sinensis assamicas (large-leaf, tree variety like that used to make traditional Puerh tea), brought here by Japanese during the occupation. While these teas are ideal for this method, we’ve tried it with everything from greener oolongs to white tea to aged Puerh, and it’s all nice.

This type of brewing, like all tea, responds best to fresh and pure water, preferably from a mountain spring. The cleaner the water, the more the bowl will sing in your hands. Even after decades of tea, master Zhou Yu still continues to drink tea in this way at least once or twice a week—a tradition I have carried on in my own way. There are many reasons why drinking tea in a bowl is so beautiful, some of which we can discuss—some of which you’ll discover on your own—and some is left beyond the gate where words can never intrude. One of the most important is humility.

We drink bowl tea to reduce all the human parts of tea brewing to almost nothing. There are no, or very few parameters: adjust the amount of leaves and water temperature—or don’t and enjoy the tea however it turns out. In this way, we let go of all pretensions. There is no longer any quality in the tea brewing, no comparative mind—no better or worse. A lot of skill and mastery often leads to snobbery. Then we miss the chance to connect with Nature, ourselves and each other through tea. In drinking bowl tea, and minimalizing the human role in tea, we can return to just leaves and water, where the true dialogue begins. Try drinking a bowl of leaves and water, simply and beyond all refinement. Returning to the simplest and oldest way of making tea is often very profound. Through drinking tea in this way you may awaken your own insights, beyond these few I hare freely now:


Putting a handful of leaves in a bowl and adding hot water is the oldest gong fu tea, dating back thousands and thousands of years. In antediluvian forests, pristine in verdure, sages exchanged wisdom over such steaming bowls. They would find wild tea trees and process the tea on the spot, withering, roasting and drying it as they talked or sat in silent meditation. No doubt they also had pouches and jars of aged teas lying around for special occasions, when distant masters chanced to visit; when certain astrological and cosmological conjunctions happened making the time ideal for powerful tea and deeper meditation; or even to celebrate seasonal changes.

Using crystal mountain water, boiled simply over charcoal, they would cover the leaves in water and in energy from their Qi Gong and meditation— passing more than just tea and water to the traveler or student, but a part of themselves. Tea has always been a communication of the Tao precisely because it goes beyond words and the concepts they engender, and there is a truer representation of my wisdom in the tea I serve you than in a thousand books or lectures. “The tea doesn’t lie”, as they say. You can’t make your gong fu any more than what it is with any amount of embellishment, fancy words and descriptions: the tea will tell the tale.

When you are drinking tea in this way, you continue this ancient tradition. Close your eyes and imagine the craggy folds of an ancient mountain chain, dancing like a saffroned scroll painting. In billowing silk robes you sit beneath a wizened old tea tree, by some rocks and a stream. You can hear the ‘wind sowing the pines’ as the kettle bowls away. The master sticks his hand into an old pouch, more cracked and worn than his hoary face. His gentle hands reach across and flutter the leaves into your bowl. He holds the kettle for a moment or two, until it whispers to hush, and then in slow, gentle circles covers your bowl in steam—swirling the leaves around in circles as they open…


It is important that we don’t get caught up in all the pretension that can accumulate as you learn about tea. Unfortunately, some people become snobby about their tea and lose the ability to enjoy the tea without all the perfect accouterments, expensive pots, kettles and jars. The Japanese tea ceremony was often criticized by monks and spiritualists alike, since many practitioners lost the true spirit of tea over time and turned it into a chauvinistic obsession based on collecting expensive teaware and tea and showing off to others. Rikyu tried  to right this by incorporating local, simple raku pottery and natural decoration in a simple aesthetic. Today also many people use tea to promote themselves, and get lost knowing more or having more than others.

This isn’t the only way we brew tea, and it is great to explore all the nuances of different kinds of
teaware and gong fu methodology. But more important than any kind of teaware, pouring skill or brewing technique is respect—one of master Rikyu’s four essential ingredients in tea. Don’t lose yourself in connoisseurship, thinking you are better than others or know more about tea. I would much rather drink gas-station quality oolong with a humble monk in the mountains, pure of heart, than expensive tea with someone using his tea and knowledge to promote

By returning to the simplest of tea brewing parameters a few times a week, we can effectively wipe the slate clean. All of our affectation is gone. There are no better cups, jars or pots; no need to pour in certain directions or from certain heights, no better or worse—just leaves in water. The discriminating mind can often ruin tea, analyzing and criticizing what should be enjoyed, embraced and absorbed into the body and spirit. There is a time for working towards bringing the best out of teas through skill, and a time of returning to softness when the human element and all our posturing is put aside in favor of the simplicity of Nature, which since ancient times has attracted people of spirit to tea.

I have my students follow only this method for the first months that they are learning about tea, so that when they move on to learning about all the different kinds of teaware and tea, skills and techniques, they do so from a simple base. And returning to that foundation each week, they never forget their roots in the ‘beginner’s mind’, free of all the ego that ruins tea more than any bad water ever could.


The Japanese tea aesthetic was long ago called “wabi”, which in part means the simplicity we discussed above. Wabi is also about enhancing and then rejoicing in the imperfection of true life. It means that the moon partially covered by clouds offers more to the imagination than the radiant full moon, and more adequately represents the formless and form as one. As poet Leonard Cohen put it, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Wabi is a difficult aesthetic to master, as it is hard to contrive imperfection that is natural. It has to be spontaneous and flow out of Nature, which is also often so beautiful precisely because it is illogical and disorderly, and the mind cannot organize it. It is no wonder that such a rational society as ours would prefer the ordered, hedged garden to the forest the sages of old rejoiced in.

Of course, you can find a tea bowl made with wabi aesthetic and this may enhance your experience. There is nothing like holding a mastercrafted bowl of tea, exploring all the nuances created by the kiln and seemingly or truly unintended by the artist. Also, there is often a clearer representation
of a tea’s quality brewing it this way, and it may involvea fault of some kind. Rather than criticizing or even accepting the issues, why not embrace them as an aspect of the tea before you—this very moment of your life as it is, and as it ever shall be. There is an even more profound relaxation and a deeper, more rewarding attitude towards life when you can step beyond mere acceptance of the imperfect moment to an actual participation and enjoyment in the experience, despite whatever perceived defects youmay notice.


“The dialogue between man and nature is needed more than all else”, master Zhou Yu often reprovingly yet gently warns. All of our personal and social problems stem, in essence, from the fact that we have ignored this conversation—a subtle whisper still heard if you quiet the mind or walk in the forest where the noise of the city is far away and the river’s voice more audible. Over centuries, our analytic, rational mind has been developed to an extraordinary degree, bringing with it such wonderful advancements in technology and science, like this very computer I now type on. But this exclusive focus on the rational mind has also meant the loss of another, more ancient kind of intelligence: the feeling of being a part of this world.

Lost in the rational voice that narrates our lives, many people feel completely disassociated
from each other, Nature and the world. An intelligence and wisdom born of a connection with Nature was self-evident to ancient peoples. Through this connection, they understood inarticulate aspects of Nature that are completely lost today —the stars and seasons, rivers and mountains. And in our solipsism, ignoring Nature to explore our own desires and satisfaction, we have polluted the earth; and only now that the warning voice has reached a cataclysmic volume is mankind once again beginning to hear and understand what has been sacrificed in the name of technological development.

Obviously our social problems aren’t about a lack of science or information. We have so much information that huge computers can’t store it all, and you couldn’t learn even a fraction of it in a lifetime. Wisdom is what is needed. It isn’t new technology or information, but the proper application of the sciences and awakened, aware living that is the key to our prosperity, both personally and as a species. When you drink tea from a bowl, there is an even greater connection to the Nature within the leaves. Lighter brews often reveal the deepest qualities of tea, connecting you to the sun, moon and mountain that all worked in conjunction to form these leaves. When you then cover them in mountain spring water, the effect is powerful indeed. If you stop all other activity and focus on the bowl before you, the voice of Nature often returns, louder than ever before. You find yourself connected and complete, a part of the process that began with a seedling gathering sun, water and mountain to it as it grew into a tree, sprouted a crown of glorious leaves, which are now culminating in this very warmth and energy coursing through you as you drink.


Brewing tea simply in a bowl allows for a kind of clarity of the senses. Between sips, you can hold the bowl and close your eyes allowing the warmth to flow through your arms, just as the inner warmth spreads through your chest. With all the room in the world the leaves open up gloriously in the bowl and are a delight to behold, which is one more reason why this method works so well with
old-growth teas.

There is a sense of openness to the bowl and leaves other brewing methods cannot compare to,
connecting the tea more clearly to the room and people around it. This connection, more than anything else, is why my first such session with master Zhou Yu will remain one of the most memorable tea sessions of my entire life, even though we drank only a few leaves of a simple green tea at the time. When you drink tea this way there is no question of quality, or evaluation of any kind. There is no need to record your impressions internally or communicate them externally. The tea ceremony is stripped down to its most basic elements: leaves and water, self and no-self.

In such a space, you are free to be your self. Many times the conversation naturally winds down
and master Zhou Yu and I smile at each other one last time, before drifting off into our own contention, contemplation or meditation. This quietude is paramount in living a healthy life in accord with the Dao, balancing stillness and activity and acting from depth and with meaning, when the time is right.

After all, what is important cannot be expressed as well in words as it can in the direct transmission of something so intimate as liquor we ingest into our bodies, prepared by the hands of the master—the true master behind your face.


The essence of a tea is beyond its stronger flavor or aroma to the Qi deep within the veins of the leaf, just as the essence of the tea ceremony is beyond the tea or teaware. Master Rikyu once told a student, “imagine your life without tea and if it is any different than it is now, you have yet to truly
understand Cha Dao.” If tea becomes pretentious and snobby, the essence is lost. Anyone can learn about tea, reading and traveling to tea-growing regions. It is the Dao that is the more powerful and lasting part of a tea session, not the tea. The tea bowl before you is a gateway to yourself, and beyond that the Nature and the flow of energy through this universe. And it is often easier to transcend the tea when the process is simpler and close to the essential Nature that produced the tea in the first place. “Man follows the Earth; the Earth follows the universe; the universe follows the Dao. The Dao follows only itself.”

Sun Moon Lake

By Lindsey Goodwin

The origin of this month’s tea is Taiwan’s famed Sun Moon Lake (日月潭 or Ri Yue Tan). It’s an idyllic area of Taiwan, and it has been designated a “National Scenic Area” (which is cooler than it sounds, because Taiwan is practically overrun with stunning nature sites, and there are thirteen places in the country with this designation).

These days, Sun Moon Lake is a major tourist destination, which has its pros (i.e., signs in English, good infrastructure and some great places to stay) and cons (i.e., traffic and crowds on the weekends). Most people consider Sun Moon Lake to be a romantic getaway spot. It’s a popular honeymoon destination, and during even a short visit there you’ll likely espy more than one couple getting their wedding photos shot on the lake’s shores, in a bamboo thicket or alongside tea plants with a backdrop of verdant mountains and clear waters...

But there are other types of tourists there as well: Cyclists love to loop the lake or meander past it while on a larger journey around Taiwan; religious pilgrims pay visits to several of the local temples, including one built by former president Chiang Kai-Shek in memory of his mother (the one where Wu De proposed to Joyce); Chinese sightseers arrive by the bus-full to ride boats and snap pictures before being carted off to the next venue on the group tour’s checklist; Taiwanese families go there for boating as well, and for the fantastic local delicacies, which include bamboo shoots, edible ferns and tea-related dishes. (Although the Red Tea ice cream and sweet, Red Tea ‘egg roll’ pastries are popular, I find Sun Moon Lake’s version of tea eggs, seasoned with spices, Red Tea and local mushrooms, to be the most delicious of all the area’s tea cuisine.) And for tea people like us, the main draw to Sun Moon Lake is, of course, the tea itself. Sun Moon Lake is famous for its Red Teas. These
teas often have dark, wiry, twisted leaves and brilliant red liquor. They may have opulent notes of fruit, mint and spice, and overall they tend to lean toward the lighter end of the spectrum of Red Teas, much like a heavily oxidized oolong.

On the main drag of the town, tea is loudly peddled at all sorts of shops and casually poured at practically every restaurant and cafe. If you ever visit Sun Moon Lake, I advise skipping all that busy hawking and spilling. The tea tends to be (How to put this?) not the best quality and it is almost never organic, plus the atmosphere is touristy American tourist traps!). However, there are much better teas (and tea environs) to be found if you journey out from the town’s center a bit. If you bring your own tea or are able to source some organic Sun Moon Lake Red Tea while in the area, thereare countless  spaces for outdoor tea sessions around the lake and in the nearby woods and mountains. You can rent a scooter and explore to find your own tea spots there, connecting with the land, the water, the lake
breeze and the mountains. (For better or worse, on the weekends, you can also connect with the scores of other tourists.)

During a visit to Sun Moon Lake earlier this year, I had a few beautiful Matcha sessions with Merlin,
each in a different setting around the lake. But there really is something to be said for drinking Sun Moon Lake tea around Sun Moon Lake, too. Luckily, this is easy for us. We here at the center are blessed with connections to two local tea producers in Sun Moon Lake. One tea producer specializes in organic Assamu (Assam varietal) Red Tea, and is the maker of this month’s tea. Although the family speaks little English, we are sometimes able to arrange visits to witness production firsthand at their small factory. You can learn more about this producer in the short article on this month’s tea. The second producer we know is larger, and they produce several types of Red Tea, including an Assamu, large-leaf tea like our Tea of the Month, the celebrated Ruby Red (Taiwan 18) and Rose Quartz (Taiwan 21), and even some small-leaf Red Tea made from Taiwanese varietals. They also have a “DIY” tea production area, in which you can roll your own red tea by hand. The company
handles the picking, oxidation, drying, packaging, etc., and you can watch some of these aspects of production, or you can sit and drink tea with the woman who runs the company (and her sister, who speaks English). But the real joy in visiting this factory is rolling the tea! If nothing else, rolling your own tea gives you a sense of the incredible skill held by tea masters. In my travels, I’ve had the chance to see many people try their hands at tea production for the first time. Almost every time I’ve witnessed this, a newbie exclaims something along the lines of, “This is much harder than I thought it would be! You really have to work to make tea.” (And most of the time, they weren’t even awake before dawn to harvest the leaves!) We all know in theory that making tea by hand is difficult, but (to state the obvious) we can’t know this experientially until we actually experience making tea for ourselves. This firsthand experience of working with tea leaves generates immense respect for the people who produce our tea, and for the tea itself.

Furthermore, rolling your own tea can provide a much more direct, visceral and even spiritual connection with tea than you might imagine. The Ruby Red varietal is particularly suited for this kind of participation with the Leaf. During rolling, its thick cell walls rupture to ooze out a syrupy juice that smells of wintergreen, cinnamon and ripe fruit. As you work, gripping, rolling and releasing these increasingly sticky leaves over and over again, your hands are stained russet. You then lean forward repeatedly to put a little weight into the rolling, and your back and shoulders slowly begin to feel warm, then sore. You can feel the effort clearly. You can feel the rewards for your effort clearly. And if you pay close attention, you can feel something else happening: You can feel the tea interacting with you in a less physical, more spiritual, way.

Even more so than water, tea is a spectacular sender and receiver of energy. Many of you have felt this in your tea drinking and preparation, so you know of what I speak. Imagine feeling that same kind of communication, only with leaves that were plucked from trees that morning, and which are being shaped (by you) into leaves which will be infused and consumed (likely by you and people close to you)...

Although I didn’t do this the first couple times I rolled tea (I was too focused on getting the basic technique down!), now I like to roll tea with an intention to communicate Tea spirit through the leaves and to help people connect to Nature and themselves through tea. I like to put metta (loving-kindness) into the tea. I can’t say whether it helps the taste, but it certainly seems to help those who drink it, and that’s what really matters. There’s another way tea people like ourselves enjoy connecting with tea in Sun Moon Lake. This one involves old tea trees. Sun Moon Lake has a unique history of tea production dating back slightly under one hundred years. During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, the Japanese government tried to move Taiwanese farmers away from Oolong production. The Japanese tea company Nitton wanted to (and, for a time, did) fiercely compete with international Red Tea brands like Lipton; and the Japanese government wanted their newly acquired lands to produce a markedly different product from the Green Teas of Japanese make, a product which would create more profit for their empire. For this reason, they pushed Oolong producers into Red Tea production, and set up a tea research and production facility in Sun Moon Lake for making the Red Tea venture more prosperous. When the era of Japanese occupation ended, some farmers returned to Oolong production (and aren’t we glad they did!), while a few others stuck to Red Tea, generally in climates and elevations especially suited to it. The efforts to generate successful Taiwanese Red Teas were and continue to be part of what makes Taiwan’s tea production so special and unique. However, in Sun Moon Lake production was abandoned for several decades after the Japanese were expelled, and then restarted in modern times.

In the early days of Taiwanese Red Tea research and production, several large plots of sloped land near the lake were planted with tea seeds. Each seed was genetically distinct, and each of the many surviving plants has its own variances. During a stroll through the groves, you can easily see that some trees grow tall and lanky as though reaching for the sun and moon, while others spread gracefully upwards and outwards like a half-unfolded fan. And you may even glimpse ones that remain squat and stocky like a Hobbit nearing his 111th birthday, or rise thick and dense from the soil like a stone column from more ancient times. A closer look will show you that there are infinite other differences. One tree’s leaves are waxy and thick, with sawtoothed serrations along the edges and veins a few shades off from the deep, blue-green of their flesh; another’s leaves are a tinge more yellowy, smaller and completely smooth around the edges, with veins that bulge out rather than differentiate themselves by color. The density of the leaves changes completely from one tree to the next, as does the abundance (or lack) of flowers (which may, themselves, differ in size, shape, color, etc.). And the seed pods! Encasing one or more seeds, these pods: fuzzy and tawny, waxen and emerald, thick and parched like dried citrus peel, thin like soaked birch bark wrapped around pearls. They show such variance, perhaps hinting at the treasure troves of genetic material contained within.

A closer look reveals that these are not just surface differences: Just as processing and steeping the leaves of each of these plants would produce a vast assortment of tastes and aromas, stopping to get a sense of the plants themselves uncovers a very different sense of ‘Being’ from each plant. The spirit of Tea is clear as soon as you step onto the overgrown fields, but the spirits of the individual tea plants show themselves a little more slowly. If you take the time to do so, connecting with the plants in this way can be a profoundly meaningful experience, and a tremendous way to connect more deeply with Tea’s essential nature. If you have the chance to visit our center in Taiwan for more than a couple weeks, I highly recommend a two- or three-day trip to Sun Moon Lake while you’re in the area. In addition to being all-round awesome, it’s accessible by public transit (Three cheers for Taiwanese infrastructure!) and it’s very reasonably priced by Western standards. We can help you arrange a visit to see the old tea trees, set you up at an incredible guest house and organize an opportunity to do some tea rolling of your own.But that’s in another Now... For the time being, share this month’s gorgeous tea with someone who needs it!

You may be surprised to know that red tea is the most popular type of tea in the West. How is it that most Westerners drink red tea without ever having heard of red tea? Simple. It just isn’t usually known by That name in the West.

In China, where red tea originated, it was (and is) known as Hong Cha (literally, ‘red tea’), after the reddish color of its infusions. However, early in the tea trade to the West, very little information was exchanged when the tea was handed over for silver. Even things like teas’ names could be (and often were) terribly misunderstood or mangled in those days. And so it came to be that the name red tea was dropped in favor of ‘black tea’, which referred to the dark, withered leaves of the
tea. (After all, these already dark leaves were likely made even darker by the long and salty boat journey from China to Europe and to America.) Therefore, a large part of the confusion came from the fact that the Chinese tended to differentiate tea based on the liquor, whereas Westerners looked at the leaf itself. The name “black tea” stuck in the West, but in recent years there has been a shift toward more tea awareness and the spread of the term ‘red tea’.

What is Red Tea?

Unlike other tea types, red tea typically has leaves that dwell in the red-to-black range of the color spectrum. This includes the muted orange of Dian Hong, the deep rust of Assam Second Flush, the greenish-black of Darjeeling First Flush and the blue-blacks of many Keemun and Ceylon teas. Regardless of the color of the leaves, though, the infusion is typically dark and warm in color, i.e. deep tan, rust red or espresso brown. The colors of red tea infusions and leaves (which resulted in the names ‘red tea’ and ‘black tea,’ respectively) are both primarily the results of tea processing. As we’ve explained in previous issues, different tea types are processed differently. While processing is not the sole differentiating factor, (Indeed, varietals, terroir, harvest seasons and many other factors
can make substantial differences!), processing often makes the most profound difference in how a given leaf ’s liquor will look, taste and feel by the time it reaches your teapot or bowl.

Oftentimes, Western authors mislead us by saying that all tea is the same plant and only differs in processing. Actually, of the seven genres of tea, this is really only true of red tea, which happens to be the most consumed tea in the West, which helps explain some of the confusion. The other six genres of tea are as much a varietal as they are a processing methodology. But you can process any tea as a red tea, and usually with nice results. Long ago, all semi-oxidized tea was called “red tea.” There really wasn’t a demarcation between oolong and red tea, and Chajin used the terms interchangeably. Red tea was just the final stop on the semi-oxidized line. Though red tea is sometimes called “fully oxidized,” that really isn’t possible; but it is more heavily oxidized than any other genre of tea. Because it has more processing and more oxidation, red tea is stronger. The leaf has had more of its essence opened up. Even chemically, it has more tannins and caffeine, and is therefore more brisk and uplifting than all the other six genres of tea.

You may have noticed that three of the eight steps above involve oxidation. Heavy oxidation is the main differentiating factor between red tea processing and other types of tea processing. It is what brings out the deep colors and the aromas and flavors of fruit, malt and tobacco leaf in red tea. It’s also a factor in red tea’s relatively long shelf life. There is some overlap between tea types with regard to oxidation. For example, a heavily-oxidized oolong such as a traditional Wuyi Cliff Tea may be considered to be an oolong in China and a red tea (‘black tea’) in the West, while a lighter oxidation red tea from Darjeeling or Nepal’s first flush (spring harvest) may be thought of as akin to an oolong. However, oolong tea entails several steps that are not
utilized in red tea production, like shaking to bruise the edges of the leaves for example, differentiating it from red tea despite the occasional similarity in oxidation levels. Therefore, while oxidation is a key difference between red tea and other tea types, it is not the sole difference.

Red Tea’s History

The Ming Dynasty saw manydevelopments in tea processing,including oolong Tea, Flower-Scented Tea and red tea. Later, in the Qing Dynasty, many of the teas developed during this age of innovation were evolved further. As with any timeline detailing groundbreaking developments, there is some controversy over when the ‘first’ red tea appears. Accordingly, there are several origin stories about red tea. Some claim that the appearance of Wuyi Cliff Tea (also known as “Congou black tea” in the West, and as we discussed above not really a red tea at all) in the 15th or 16th century heralded the age of red tea, while others credit it to the appearance of Xiao Zhong (‘Souchong black tea’) in Fujian around 1730 or to various red teas that were developed in Qimen in the 1700s. Later, around 1875, the technique for making Gong Fu Hong Cha was introduced to the Anhui region, a major producer of Qimen (Keemun) red tea to this day.

Ultimately, which tea was the ‘first’ red tea didn’t matter much to the local tea drinkers of the time— in general, red tea wasn’t very popular with them. However, starting in the early 1800s the export markets in Europe, the American colonies and the Middle East couldn’t get enough red tea. Some attribute the international popularity of red tea in particular to red tea’s shelf stability (a necessity in long ocean journeys),
while others say that it has more to do with the compatibility of the bold flavor profiles of red teas with the cuisines of Germany, England, France and other nations where red tea has become the default tea type. It was this popularity that led to large scale production of red tea in China, and to the eventual theft of tea seeds, tea plants and tea production techniques, which were taken by Scottish and English adventurer- entrepreneurs and transplanted to India and other colonial territories (such as modern day Sri Lanka
and Kenya). These entrepreneurs took their limited knowledge of tea production and used it to fashion machines that replace the handmade aspects of tea processing. The availability of cheap red tea fueled its popularity as a tea type further, making it the most popular category of tea in the West to this day. 

Today, red tea is produced using this machine-driven approach in many countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. More recently, machine-made red teas have appeared in Japan (where they are called Wakocha or ‘Japanese red tea’), and machine-made red tea has even made its way back to China. Meanwhile, green tea and oolong remain the most popular types of tea amongst tea drinkers in China. However, in recent years the interest in handmade and more traditionally made red tea has seen a resurgence in China, Taiwan and elsewhere, resulting in a wider availability of handmade red teas from China and Taiwan (including our tea of the month). For this and other reasons, the characteristics that red tea drinkers in China and Taiwan prefer tend to be different from the typical tea drinker in the West. Instead of looking for a dark color in the infusion or boiled liquor and a bold flavor that can handle milk and sugar, these tea lovers seek out beautifully shaped leaves and infusions that are best savored without any additives. Also, while most red tea drinkers steep their leaves only once, those opting for more traditionally made red teas prefer to let the leaves open up gradually with many short infusions, savoring their tea patience and their inner spirit rather than gulping them from a to-go cup while eating a pastry on the way to the office.

Fortunately, this newfound appreciation for more traditional red teas is spreading beyond China and Taiwan. It is our hope that you will be able to further your own growing appreciation of red tea with this month’s Ruby Red, and to perhaps even spread the love for red tea ingeneral.

Living with Tea Medicine - Chapter 6: The Spirit of Intention

Up until this chapter, I had been able to follow through on my commitment to blog every two to three weeks on Tea Medicine. Funny how once I got to the chapter on "Intention" that things would start falling apart! This chapter wasn't anything I could actually "relive"; I apparently skipped this one over on the first go-around and hadn't actually lived it at all! Having now tarried with it for a few weeks, I empathize much more with those who might say living the teaching of Tea Medicine is "too hard". It might just be the hardest thing you ever try to do in your life! If you take it seriously enough, it is your life!
Chapter 6, "The Spirit of Intention", contains the story of one of Wu De's students who had been changed deeply enough by the Way of Tea that she "quit her job to pursue her lifelong dream, reconciled her broken marriage so they could live in harmony; she became vegetarian, was meditating twice a day, and most importantly, she was happy!" Now this story is not a prescription for how to do Cha Dao right, yet this happens to be my own story as well. Things certainly started coming together after a couple of years practicing Cha Dao on a daily basis. However I must point out that although this story reads like a fairy tale with a happy ending, it has a hidden white lie: the nature of "pursuing a lifelong dream" is simply an intention, a mere begining, which does not necessarily flow fairytale-like, tea or no tea!
In Zen, there is the idea of "post-Satori practice": you've meditated your way into an awakening of the nature of reality, and while you might feel as if you've reached the peak, you quickly realize that now this realization has to be lived. It's quite sobering. Similiarly, Cha Dao will eventually take you to the top of the mountain, showing you a view of your life which is now situated as properly as it ever needed to be for you to find success, only to point out that you now have to climb down its craggy cliffs, with no other option but to engage yourself in that pesky task of "pursuing the lifelong dream"! All the old demons preventing you from manifesting your dream that were ever there are ever there still! Nothing fundamentally has changed. Mountains are still mountains. There is still self-doubt. There is still fear. But what might be different, fundamentally different, is that now your intention is to see the whole thing through, no matter how much it costs or how long it takes. And because Tea is now a part of living the dream, you might actually trust the process this time.
Even still, your mind knows you all too well. It knows your weaknesses, vulnerabilities and deepest fears. It can veil even the strongest determination. It is in this spirit that I'd like to introduce you to something that keeps me in the game, while my intention experiences its psychosomatic fits and starts: my Quan Yin altar.
Until I went to visit the Tea Sage Hut in Taiwan last year, my affinity for Quan Yin was basically non-existent. Long ago, I had to taken my spiritual knicknacks to the proverbial dumpster, proud to have overcome the rights and rituals that did little to help me in my life other than to build spiritual pride. But upon seeing Shen Su perform his pattern of mindful blessings around the Hut, I could see the kind of mind at work that I myself wanted: one that was able to supplicate itself to a higher power, knowing that higher power was both within and without. As soon as I returned from my trip, I established a Quan Yin altar in my own home. From the moment I placed the first stick of lit incense at Her feet, I set an intention that I would not miss lighting a stick of incense for even a single morning, barring not being at home. I did not set this intention in order to accomplish any particular goal, not as a prayer of supplication to this powerful deity who might take pity on me and bestow Her wish-fulfilling blessings upon me. No, this small act would be my own overt identification with my fundamental sanity. Lighting this incense, I could then say to myself that even if the day goes south for any reason, I was at least able to trust myself to do the simplest thing. If I couldn't maintain the practice of this simple act, how would I trust myself when things go really far south and I'm tempted to throw it all away again!
Even the strongest human mind is bound to go down every now and again! None of us would be here if we didn't have any buttons that needed pressing. Adding Quan Yin to this dire picture, a manifest repository for my intention of maintaining a stable mind, I have a ballast that commands only the smallest of payments to work. If I am lucky and my mind wakes up sharp and the house is calm that morning, I can spend some time lingering in prayer, which bolsters my intention with firm insurance. Knowing how precariously my mind sits between calm and disaster at any moment, it is bare minimum catastropic coverage with a very high deductable. Given that I have a family, I would be a fool to carry only that. I must therefore also keep my appointment with the kettle. After all, if this is the only insurance I am carrying, I better be making regular preventative trips to Dr. Tea.
In pursuit of one's dream, a protracted process that eats decades of one's life, the mind in its impatience chomps at the bit to take over and color everything over with its hopelessness. It doesn't have all the time in the world for you to work everything out as Nature intends! Once you've taken its bait of possible shortcuts, it strings you incessantly along, making all kinds of promises that "the solution is right around the corner". You follow his errant lead, thought and after thought, groping and searching for the way out. Does it every truly come?
A healthy mind in it for the long haul has its proper function. It allows you to become aware of the stillness that is the true genesis of its movement. If you can follow that thread and not be tempted by shortcuts, solutions appear like miracles. I am not advocating a lazy "thy will be done" type attitude! The struggle to free one's self from the confines of the running mind takes all of one's body and mind. After you pierce through into still awareness, you then have to maintain it continuously with the gentle effort of samadhi. Here the mind can suddenly and violently pull one back down under the rough water, like undertow, where you tumble around, gasping for air, again and again. As you toss and turn, keep feeling around in the wet dark for the Tea bowl! She will rescue you!
Recently, my life's dream of finishing a particular body of music was rekindled after I was asked to submit music for Global Tea Hut's August issue on Tea and Music. Via this offering, Tea led me to see that I had so much still to offer and all the right parameters in which to do so. I reengaged. Immediately, all the old obstacles reappeared. I fought through them all, my mind hammering me at every turn as it threw every old, depressed negative emotion it could my way. Yet every morning, incense was lit, tea was drunk, chores were managed. Every day, money was spent, experiments were undertaken, trials were made. Every evening, meditation persisted, plans were laid, varying qualities of sleep were had. Intention stayed fundamentally firm. It was not pleasant! It was not unpleasant, either!
When you make space for Tea and set Its intention forth, it will clear out all kinds of clutter and fill in the gaps with a high-energy awakened life. This awakening can feel so good! But your intention must not regress into drinking a beverage that makes you feel good that lets you sit around in a relaxing stupor, breathing in incense and flowers and admiring what a clean, polished life you now have. In a path of Tea service, to yourself and therefore to others, one must descend down from the mountain hut into the big, bad world and help see things along. These things includes your own hopes and dreams, which are not likely to fall away through the life of Tea but rather become more imperative for you to follow and achieve. This is where the Chajin meets the Road, and when the journey includes a travelling companion like the Mind, the same Mind that before Tea satori got in the way at every turn and created so many hardships and detours, the Mind that will still be there, lurking, waiting for your intention to become lax. Your job is to keep your intention firm every step of the way, to persist in the vow of keeping things clean and untarnished by this shortcut-pushing mind, no matter what happens.

A Life of Tea Practice: Making it sacred

Just like I made burning incense on an altar sacred in the way I needed it to be sacred, all spaces meant to invite Tea spirit must be made sacred by intention for them to light up. There is nothing inherently special about burning incense. Matter is consummed in heat, it's just a momentary chemical process. Yet for me, it holds so much power, the key to continuous practice towards success in life. Wu De says it is "important for the artist to be all that she hopes to convey." The truest artist attempts to be all they hope to convey at every moment, when things are easy and pleasant and when things are hard and uncomfortable. Tea doesn't rely on your interpretation of events being right in order to participate in making things sacrosanct, but it does rely on where your heart is.

Ask Yourself: Am I looking for fulfillment through my senses or am I centered in a fulfilled heart?

The mind wants to experience fulfillment through tasting fruits of action. It wants badly to taste these fruits. Yet many of us know that this very wanting is an obstacle to actually attaining our dreams. In a lifetime of engaging in dream fulfilling effort, doing it right means working so tirelessly in the moment-to-moment striving that when the fruit finally does arrive, there is no more ceremony at the end point than there would be at any other step along the way. The thought of future enjoyment is rendered inert. Unless one finds fulfillment moment-to-moment, through all the large and small tasks that must be worked through over the long haul, the heart cannot rest.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Lost Art of Oolong

Interview with He Jian (何健), [1] owner of the Yeh Tang Tea Culture Research Institute
Article by Yan Jie (顏婕)
Photographs by the Editorial Department

Imagine yourself savoring a cup of aged Wenshan Baozhong tea from 1979. The tea leaves have witnessed the passage of more than thirty years to bring you this sweet, mellow tea liquor with its warm, clean fragrance. As you breathe in, your nostrils are filled with the scent of tea, soothing away life’s stresses and anxieties. Our search for this traditional Taiwanese oolong flavor brought us to the Yeh Tang Tea Culture Research Institute on Taipei’s Yongkang Street, where we listened attentively over the teacups to veteran tea master He Jian as he tirelessly recounted the stories behind Taiwan’s traditional oolong tea varieties: Wenshan Baozhong, Muzha Tieguanyin, Dong Ding Oolong, and Oriental Beauty. Through his words we were carried along on a journey through time, following the rise and fall of that traditional oolong flavor, in pursuit of a fragrant curl of steam that wafted, dreamlike, through history.

Wenshan Baozhong (Pouchong) [2] 文山包種
Wenshan is situated in the southern and south-eastern regions of the Taipei Basin and was Taiwan’s earliest tea-growing area, with tea first being cultivated there in 1810. Wenshan Baozhong tea originated in Taipei’s Nangang district in the late 19th century. Its founding fathers were two natives of Anxi County in Fujian Province, Wang Shuijin (王水錦) and Wei Jingshi (魏靜時). They established a tea plantation on a hillside of Neihu Village in the Qixing region (near the old Nangang Village), and started to produce tea. From that point on, two distinct styles of Baozhong tea gradually developed: Wenshan style and Nangang style.
Of the two tea growers, Wang Shuijin represented the Wenshan Baozhong tea-making method, using a technique borrowed from Wuyi tea that involves twisting the tea leaves. With the existing Wuyi method as a starting point, he developed a process with a more thorough oxidization and roast, resulting in a stronger fragrance and a deeper, reddish-colored liquor. Because of its distinctive flavor, some people are still quite enamored of this stronger-scented, Wenshan style Baozhong tea. Wei Jingshi, on the other hand, modified the Wuyi tea-making method used for the Wenshan style, changing the whole process right from the withering stage to produce a more lightly oxidized tea with a greener liquor and a lighter, sweeter fragrance. This was the Nangang style of Baozhong tea—the predecessor of the Wenshan Baozhong tea that is commonly seen today.

The term “red water” (referring to the color of the liquor) that dates back to the period of Japanese occupation was in fact used to distinguish the Wenshan style from the Nangang style of processing. In 1921, the Baozhong Tea Institute was established in Nangang to promote tea production and pass on knowledge of tea-growing and manufacturing techniques to the local tea farmers. At that time the bulk of the tea leaves were exported, together with those produced in the neighboring areas of Pinglin, San Xia, and Dadaocheng, with whom Nangang enjoyed close and mutually beneficial business ties. Later on, due to several factors such as mining and urban development, tea production in the mountains of Nangang slowly began to decline. The center of Nangang Baozhong tea production gradually began to shift toward Pinglin, where the environment was more favorable. From 1975 onward, the tea market gradually became geared toward domestic consumption, and these two villages that had sprung up because of the tea industry—Nangang and Dadaocheng—slowly went into decline.
Baozhong tea has a light, elegant flavor and a distinct fragrance, and is well-regarded in the market. Furthermore, the price of Baozhong tea is completely determined by the quality of the tea itself. The difference is obvious, unlike with tea leaves from most tea regions where the price is relatively uniform, but there’s no way to distinguish the quality. In my opinion, Baozhong tea’s distinctive flavor makes it the most classic example of Taiwanese tea, and one of the best teas to represent the small and refined character of the Taiwanese region.

Muzha (Mucha) Tieguanyin木柵鐵觀音
During the period of Japanese rule, tea masters Zhang Naimiao (張迺妙) and Zhang Naigan (張迺乾) imported Tieguanyin tea seedlings from Anxi and planted them on Zhanghu Mountain in Muzha district (also spelled “Mucha”). Due to the favorable soil quality and climate, the area of the plantation expanded rapidly and Muzha became the main Tieguanyin-growing region. The main features of the manufacturing process included using leaves from the original Tieguanyin bush variety, followed by relatively heavy oxidization, repeated cloth-rolling, and hand-roasting. This created a unique flavor with a rich, strong fragrance and a hint of tart fruitiness, and led Tieguanyin to become famed as a regional specialty tea that’s representative of the traditional art of Taiwanese tea making.
In recent years, the characteristics of Tieguanyin, from the aroma to the mouthfeel, have all changed a lot from that early style. So what were the main factors that contributed to the evolution of Tieguanyin’s flavor? The external factors include the development of tea plantation in Maokong in the 1990s that was aimed at sightseers. After Maokong became a tourist attraction, many businesses sprung up in the area, and the influx of labor and resources changed the face of the local industry, causing the tea industry to decline. The main internal factor, on the other hand, was that as the farmland was passed down through generations of tea growers it was continually redistributed and divided into smaller and smaller sections, dramatically decreasing the area available for planting. Because of these core external and internal influences, it was inevitable that Tieguanyin would undergo a fundamental change.
In addition, the advent of tea competitions also had an influence on the flavor of Tieguanyin. The authorities hoped to stimulate the tea economy, so from their perspective, the more tea varieties entered in the competitions, the better. In order to keep the competitions running, they needed to expand the area of origin of the raw tea leaves, so the tea growers then moved to Pinglin to grow their tea there, and started to make Tieguanyin using tea leaves from the Pinglin region. Tieguanyin teas from areas of mainland China also entered the arena alongside Muzha Tieguanyin, and the distinctive traditional flavor of Tieguanyin slowly became diluted.
I believe that the rarer the production of traditional Tieguanyin becomes, the more we need to highlight the few remaining great tea artisans, tea bush varieties, and tea-making methods, to set a benchmark for the industry. I hope that this high benchmark will become the pride of Taiwan and set an example for Anxi; so that once it has gained prominence its uniqueness will be better recognized. To truly capture the “Guanyin spirit” that is so sought after in traditional Muzha Tieguanyin tea (named for Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Mercy), you really need the genuine Tieguanyin tea plant variety, plus the traditional manufacturing method. If we can promote the proper appreciation of Tieguanyin, then people will recognize its true rarity and worth, and there will naturally be a market for it. Once demand is established, it will have a stimulating effect on the wider industry.

Oriental Beauty東方美人
Oriental Beauty tea is also called Peng Fang tea, or Baihao (“White Tip”) Oolong. It’s mainly produced in the Taoyuan, Xinchu, and Miaoli areas of Taiwan. Its most recognizable characteristics are its delicate, lingering honey aroma, and the way it combines the traditional taste of oolong with the richness of red teaof all the oolongs, it’s the closest in flavor to red tea. In 20th century England, Oriental Beauty’s distinctive taste and vigorous, energizing liquor was received with great enthusiasm and became very popular.

Oriental Beauty can only be produced in one season of the year (global warming has meant that that the quantity able to be produced in winter is diminishing). This makes it very difficult for small-scale tea farmers to make a living from growing it, and the production of Oriental Beauty tea in Taiwan is gradually decreasing. The tea plantations are small and the resources concentrated, which makes it relatively easy to hand-select the choicest tea leaves that have been bitten by the small green flies whose saliva gives the tea its characteristic sweetness. [3] Because of this, the same few people tend to take out the top prizes in the tea competitions. Add to this the importing of teas from outside Taiwan, and other factors, and the result is that over time this type of tea has also lost some of its unique characteristics. The level of oxidization has become lighter and lighter, and environmental changes have meant that the unique quality resulting from the green flies’ saliva is less and less prominent. [4] The tea that is now produced can easily fetch ten to twenty thousand New Taiwanese Dollars[5]  per half a kilogram,  yet the brewed tea is a very pale golden yellow color, and lacks that traditional amber color and robust flavor that it had in the past. So the fundamental quality of the tea has slowly changed. However, how could we allow such a distinctive tea to simply disappear? Being among Taiwan’s most recognized specialty teas and an important Taiwanese export, with a flavor even appreciated by Queen Victoria of England. Though we may not have the opportunity to experience Oriental Beauty as it once was we cannot lose sight of its worthiness of our appreciation.

Dong Ding Oolong凍頂烏龍

Dong Ding Oolong is produced in Lugu Township in Taiwan’s Nantou County, at an elevation of 500 to 800 meters above sea level. It’s quite heavily withered and oxidized, and goes through several rounds of rolling in cloth bags to give the leaves their ball-like shape (one of the traditional skills involved in making Dong Ding Oolong is to roll the tea with one’s feet). After that it’s slowly roasted over a charcoal fire to give the tea its characteristic rich, mellow fragrance. The craftsmanship involved in making the tea is very delicate and complex, and represents the art of Taiwanese tea-making at its finest.
The Lugu Township farmers’ collective that sprang up around Dong Ding Oolong tea made a very significant contribution to the local industry: the volume of tea that they submitted to competitions each year represented two-thirds of the total volume of all entries. Every year the volume of spring and winter tea samples that they submitted to the competitions totaled several thousand dian (a measure equal to 11 kilograms). This had a big influence on the tea industry and established Dong Ding Oolong as the leading player in the Taiwanese tea competitions, and the most well-known and influential of Taiwan’s traditional oolongs.
These days, a situation that’s worth pondering is this: in the competition categories for such a large-scale tea as Dong Ding Oolong, majority of the best-performing teas are in fact made from raw tea leaves sourced from very high-elevation tea plantations, and not from Dong Ding itself. Of course, this is because highly elevated plantations have particularly favorable growing conditions, so the tea they produce has a pleasantly soft, sweet taste. But because of this, the original purpose of holding a competition for local tea varieties has been lostthat is, to promote and bolster the local tea-growing regions. To draw a comparison; in a sporting event, athletes should be judged by their skill on the sports field, and not forced to dress up and enter a beauty pageant instead! Although the high mountain teas are indeed very sweet and fragrant, Dong Ding has a richer, more full-bodied taste, and deserves to shine on its own stage. When making tea it’s important to work with the natural character of the tea, for only then can you achieve the traditional local style and flavor that Dong Ding Oolong should display.
I truly hope that the Dong Ding tea region will be able to slowly recover, and that after the ecosystem and soil have been sufficiently cultivated, it will once again look just as it used to. Unfortunately, though understandably, no-one is willing to reproduce that traditional flavor of days gone by because of the time and effort involved—the road to the past is a hard road to travel. Some time ago I had the chance to go to the mountains and experience tea making for myself. You couldn’t even go to sleep at night, because you had to get up every two or three hours to process the tea—it was very hard work. Throughout the tea-making process, every time you turn the tea leaves over, every time you gather them up and spread them out, you can feel the subtle changes in the tea, in its appearance and scent—it’s a moving experience. How many tea lovers get to experience that these days? It’s become very rare—now you just put the leaves in a tea-turning machine that rolls them for you. Likewise, after washing machines were invented you rarely see anyone hand-washing their clothes, and we all use electric rice cookers to make dinner—the taste of that crunchy rice that you fondly remember eating from the bottom of the pan is now just a childhood memory. You can’t go back. These days, tea lovers are even more sincere and profound in their interest, and more numerous, than we were back then, but there are so many things that they have never had the chance to experience, and probably never will. It really is a great pity.

The “small and beautiful” culture of traditional oolong
The most outstanding features of Taiwan are its beauty and small size. In the past, our greatest source of pride was the purity of Taiwanese tea: the entire process, from production, to export and local consumption, the development of tea from an everyday drink to one of life’s most refined pleasures…every aspect of this development has been very complete, and has established a very high standard for tea in Taiwan.
Take the sudden rise of aged puerh, for example. Aged puerh tea had been around in Hong Kong for a very long time and was a dime a dozen there; however, once it reached the palates of the Taiwanese people and they recognized its excellent qualities, it soon became very valuable. Taiwan had a taste for the tea, mainland China had the capital, and Hong Kong had the goods—so aged puerh really highlighted the characteristics of all three places and created a fully-formed supply and demand relationship. When others provide a market, we need to establish the right standards for appreciating tea, instead of just blindly swaying with the market. Once we’ve really mastered this “small and beautiful” quality, and established our authority in appreciating and critiquing tea, we’ll have a much bigger platform to make our voices heard. This will bring about many positive changes, and enable Taiwan’s traditional oolong tea to forge its own path in the world.

I’ve suggested that the characters be included for the names of people and the main tea varieties. I’ve kept names in the Chinese format with surnames first, and have  used the Mandarin Pinyin system for Chinese words except for names with established alternate spellings, like Yeh Tang.

I’ve included alternate spellings when they appear to be commonly used. I’m not sure whether this will be necessary for your readership – do you have any thoughts on this?

I’ve extrapolated from the original text  a little here based on my own research, as I felt more context surrounding the green flies and their saliva would be helpful for an English speaking readership.

As above.

I’ve assumed that this is the currency being referred to – it’s not specified in the source text.

The History of Dong Ding

Text and figures by Lin Xianzheng, editorial department

In the undeveloped old mountain forests, where the clammy mountain air easily results in patches of frost, the early residents plowing on the mountainsides had to cling to the road with their toes to keep from slipping. With its tendency to freeze the tips of visitors’ toes, the peak known in Taiwan as “Frozen Summit” (Shan Dong) makes for a rugged walk. The top of the Dong Ding[1]  work platform is 800 m above sea level. Over time, residents began calling it Shan Dong Ding which can be translated asFrozen Summit” or “Icy Peak”, from which Dong Ding oolong tea also takes its name. Records show Dong Ding was intially a small village. The earliest census was conducted in 1887 CE, the year Taiwan was elevated from its previous administrative status as a part of Fujian province and established as a separate province.  This shows the village population was merely some 438 residents. While things may have grown since then, Dong Ding still remains a small country village in  Nantou County.

Traditional Dong Ding
Some still remember with longing the cups of thirty-some years ago: thick with a sweet aftertaste; bitter but not astringent. They had the familiarity of Chinese medicine but with a sweetness and lingering flavor that started a life long love affair. Dong Ding tea was a gift to early Lugu Township village by one of its residents, Mr. Lin Fengchi. In 1855 CE, during the Qing Dynasty, Mr. Lin journeyed to Fujian province to sit the provincial-level imperial examinations. To thank the villagers for financing his trip, he brought 36 oolong tea tree seedlings from Wuyi Mountain. Of these, 12 were planted in the early village, another 12 were planted in Zhu Lin village, and the remaining 12 were given as a gesture of gratitude to my ancestor, Mr. Lin Sanxian, who also contributed to fund the journey. These seeds where successful planted and propagated, becoming the beginning of Dong Ding tea.

Dong Ding tea is produced in Lugu Township. It grows at elevations of 600 – 1800 m, and flourishes in the cool climate, abundant rainfall, fertile soil and gentle sunshine present especially in the Dong Ding foothills, which stretch from Yonglong Village to the foothills of Phoenix Mountain. Day and night, it is often shrouded in clouds and fog with humidity regulated from Qilin Pond (known in Taiwanese as the Great Reservoir).  All these natural environmental influences come together to create an terroir ideal for for producing high-quality tea. In fact these natural ingredients are  essential to the strong and sweet liquor of Dong Ding tea, giving it the unique  bitter flavor without the astringencey – which has become  popular around the world.

Challenges Facing the Industry

The traditional Dong Ding industry faces several challenges, including broader demographic trends and [2] an aging population engaged in tea production. Job opportunities in tea production have been reduced, while few young people wish to return to their villages or remain in the area. Family-owned cultivation areas face segmentation among three generations: the old, the middle-aged, and the young. When this happens, a family property spanning three to five hectares becomes splintered into production areas of less than a single hectare. On top of all of this there is a severe shortage of workers[3]  in the region. This means when the highest annual yields come during the spring season and each tea production area reaches the same point in the harvest simultaneously, small-scale family producers find it difficult to compete for workers when they cannot offer the stable workloads of large-scale tea factories. This difficulty in hiring workers leads to labor shortages, which often delay the harvest past its prime. The resulting variations in  quality has caused many small-scale producers to gradually lose their clientele.

As time passed, farmers started outsourcing the various stages in tea production. People became experts in roasting and machinery developed for rolling tea. These processes began to change the original flavor of Dong Ding tea. There was then a  movement away from sun withering and instead implemented  heavier shaking followed by another light [4] shaking. This meant the it retained much of its green flavor and freshness, which is key to showing the variations in  Ding Dong tea.

With this series of changes in production, Dong Ding tea fell from its pinnacle. The wholesale price also began to drop from its original price of 1600 yuan. The advent of continuous picking also significantly impacted high mountain tea region after region,  mountain after mountain. For example, in areas like Shanlin Creek, Yang Zai Wan (Lamb Bay), Alishan, Shi Zhao, Rui Li, Tai He, Zhangshu Lake and elsewhere, tea leaves were made from nascent tea trees. As the quality of Dong Ding dropped so did its popularity. Consumers are also slow to come into contact with this delicately fragrant type of high mountain tea. However, its small yield is the main reason Dong Ding is slowly being forgotten. There has also been a movement towards using tender tea buds that insufficiently mature to withstand the picking methods in high mountain teas.  This has led to alterations in the external appearance of Dong Ding tea, from half-shaped leaves into compact, hemispherical knots. The more popular tea merchants misled consumers to believe that tea with more buds yielded a better appearance, as it could form more compact, solid spheres with a density like rice. In fact, the main reason for this change is that the tender buds picked to make tea are more vulnerable to being compacted into tight spheres. Demand for this in tea competitions has only added fuel to these flames.

After nearly ten years of picking these underdeveloped buds, tea competition evaluations moved from judging based on appearance and structure to the tea infusion’s internal qualities[5] . This almost ruined the gold standard Lugu Farmers’ Association world-renowned tea competition. While there were calls to protect the Lugu tea growing regional tea competition and also care for the Lugu township tea industry more comprehensively, this never happened. As the teas quality diminished, many of others that had been drinking Dong Ding for years were no longer satisatisfied.  

A hundred years ago, tea was Taiwan’s primary export. Taiwan produced 17,000 tons of tea, of which 14,000 tons was oolong tea. Guarding the ancient method of traditional Dong Ding means looking to the taste of our grandfathers’ tea: strong with a sweet aftertaste, bitter but not astringent, with a depth of flavor and a aroma that e remains present to the bottom of the cup.

High Mountain or Traditional?

High-mountain styled production has trended towards greener teas with a a weaker liquor and slightly sweet taste. When it is steeped strongly it has a bitter astringency and can cause nausea. People often find they have stomach pain and these teas should not be drunk in excess.  These issues stem from the production method with lighter withering, shaking and oxidation being the main culprits.  These changes also mean the finished tea does not age as well, often becoming unstable over time. In contrast, traditional Dong Ding production methods use appropriate withering, sufficient shaking, and suitable oxidation. This gives the tea the fragrance of ripe fruit and a scent of fermentation. It has a depth in the after taste which is strong, sweet and moist.  The liquor warms the stomach.  Unlike the modern, greener, high mountain oolongs it improves greatly with age. The longer it is stored, the more valuable it becomes. Taiwanese believe this tea benefits both the mind and body. Many people consider it a drink of vitality, and the more you drink the greater the gains!

Due to advances in modern technology, it has become difficult to retain the true tradition of semi-manual, semi-mechanical processing. So much of the process has been replaced by machines. Fresh tea leaves are kept in air-conditioned rooms, and workers no longer sweat or easily fall sick. Just like the elevator replaced stairs, turning the basic steps of daily life into mechanised action undertaken by machines, all of the old processes have been replaced. With this, the modern maladies of civilization have also increased. As we see these manual elements of tea production disappear it seems only a pretty appearance remains. We have lost the depth of the tea and are merely left with a fresh green exterior, a distant sweetness and faint  fragrance. This is the greatest fear of those of us that love Taiwan’s traditional tea. Greater output, less skilled workers, larger farmed areas, more factories… All of this leading to a movement away from the fine teas we care so deeply for.  

Returning To Traditional Processing

Returning to traditional processing methods is possible. To do this though we must rely on tea farmers, tea manufacturers, and tea industry self-regulation to correct the habits of the consuming public.  It would need to be an industry wide effort, with tea competitions and venors all placing importance on the traditional flavors of Dong Ding tea. For many years Dong Ding tea has maintained a reputation as the standard-bearer for quality, establishing the tea industry’s deep cultural foundation.While this will always be an improtant Taiwanese tea, there must be a desire to preserve this cultural heritage of its traditional processing before it disappears completely. The question is not so easy though as in recent years, imported tea has continuously entered local tea markets, and manufacturing technology has also continuously been modified to imitate Taiwanese tea flavor. The price of finished tea, which is relatively low, means there is considerable pressure facing Taiwanese tea in the markets, a pressure that is also impacting the entire tea industry. On top of all this, we are seeing being teas being sold under the flag of “Taiwanese tea”. Even a certain well-known hundred-year-old shop in the northern part of the island fell victim to a scheme that has been illegal for many years, involving masquerading overseas tea as Taiwan High Mountain tea. This mislabeled teas have spread to the majority of consumer groups, causing confusion with genuine made-in-Taiwan tea.

The Future of Dong Ding

Looking to the future, refined tea from Taiwan will see the world, playing to our geographic advantage. In 160 countries around the world, there are 300-plus millions tea drinkers. Taiwan’s climate conditions paired with its altitude are among the advantages that Taiwanese production masters are best able to grasp, developing the special characteristics unique to Taiwan’s particular conditions. Whether looking to the past, present, or future, we will also continue to see people drinking traditional Dong Ding tea. With its strong feeling and aftertaste that plays across the lips and lingers in the mouth, it brings a rosiness to the cheeks and leaves the drinker with memories of its sweet, charming taste[6] . Let us protect and promote our traditional processing methods in the hopes that the fragrance of Taiwanese tea drifts around the world. [7] 

Traditional Dong Ding Oolong and the Development of the Taiwanese Tea

Text by Kuo Kuan-fu, Graphics by the Editorial Department

Lugu Township in Nantou County is known as the birthplace of Dong Ding Oolong tea, as it’s where traditional these leaves were first grown. In recent years, however, the rise of emerging high-altitude tea-producing zones, changes to consumer tastes, and the development of other types of tea have not only caused Lugu to gradually slip from the popular consciousness, but has also forced it to adjust to the consumers expectations.

As soil fertility declines, tea trees age, and tea farmers are forced to leave the area, the tea plantations of Lugu are sadly falling into decline. Many plots used for growing tea have been converted into vegetable fields, fruit gardens, or horticultural farms; some left to lie barren. While agriculture by any means is a provision to the land it is still unfortunate should Dong Ding trees continue to lose their birth soil.  Dong Ding tea's most representative taste has given in to the prevailing trends: the degree of oxidization has been lowered, its slightly rolled and fluffy semicircular shape has been replaced by clear-cut tight curls, the orange-red with a slight golden tint of the liquor  is now a bright golden, the traditional fragrance created by a combination of the oxidation process and a charcoal fire have been replaced by an electric roast , and a brisk and clean flavor has taken the place of the gentle and lingering depth the liquor once held. . The changes to both Lugu's production zone and the tea's taste have aroused strong nostalgia and sentimentality  for the Dong Ding of the past, especially so  for those with a penchant for tradition.

Apart from high-quality tea leaves, which is a essential, experience and techniques are the most decisive factors for producing traditional Dong Ding tea. For Taiwan's partially oxidized  teas, quality is connected to a plethora of fast-changing traits unique to the leaves, the weather, and the environment. These traits render a quantified procedure impossible, and puts personal cultivation of the tea in a supremely important position. As sunlight withers and dehydrates tea leaves, careful consideration must be given to the degree to which they have been dehydrated, and what state they are now in. Dehydration causes changes to their fragrance, color, and shape. Such changes are the basis for deciding how to proceed with the next step, which is an extremely complex problem to solve. These decisions require the guidance of an experienced master to offer their guidance,  and this kind of technique, which relies on experience and intuition, verges on an art form, and explains why good tea is difficulty to produce, rarely seen, and is often expensive.

Partially oxidized  tea requires a lengthy production process. Any minor alteration to the process or change to the raw materials, weather, or environment, will lead to a difference in quality. The higher the degree of oxidation, the harder the techniques involved. Taiwan's tea-producing zones have a sea island climate, which is a geographic advantage and aids in the cultivation of tea leaves that are unavailable in inland areas. The high quality and unique characteristic of Taiwan's tea leaves are best manifested by a high degree of oxidation. I always advocate raising the degree of oxidation for partially oxidized teas as a means to accentuate the quality and taste unique to tea grown in Taiwan. . This is also an effective and vital way to protect the reputation hard won by the previous generations of Taiwanese tea farmers.

Many types of partially oxidized teas are produced without using tea leaves exposed to enough sunlight. The leaves are prematurely moved into the withering room, where the temperature and humidity are controlled to build a desired environment and are forced to dehydrate with little or mild shaking. Tea produced this way, albeit fresh and free of bitterness, tastes muted and dilute. When superb tea leaves are processed with advanced equipment, the final product ends up with a lesser sense of "technique" than in the old practice of producing tea under natural conditions. Because a fixed procedure is being followed the resulting product is bereft of craft and the ambition to make the finest tea.

Taiwan's local tea is plagued  by a number of issues, including inadequate farmland, low yields, insufficient labor, and high wages. As a consequence, Taiwan is poorly positioned to compete with major tea producers on yield and price. In terms of market competiveness though, Taiwan's tea has always maintained an esteemed position and sold at high prices, thanks to Taiwan's geographic location, its highly competent workforce, laborious  producing techniques, and its positive overall image. Partially oxidized tea stands out as its most valuable product, because the techniques to make such tea are reflected in the industry’s accumulated experience. From the withering of tea leaves under the sun to finishing the product, what is best for the tea leaves is  the primary concern every step of the way. Taiwan is unique in this way of pioneering tea making with nurturing and authentic techniques.  It is never enough to just complete a procedure.

In recent years, Taiwan's tea researchers have organized technique processing workshops at agricultural academies and regional farmer associations. All these have taken a pragmatic approach to teaching or tutoring, which enable us to practice more hands-on tea-producing techniques and to accumulate even greater experience. The degree of oxidation is on an upward trend, which can be seen from the fact that significantly fewer products now taste of green tea leaves, and that the subtleties are higher than before. In the past, other tea-producing zones in Taiwan used to influence the oxidization and taste of traditional Dong Ding oolong tea. But as times passes and the memory of things from long ago return, traditional Dong Ding  tea is now again influencing the tea world.

These changes  illustrate both the past and future of Taiwans specialty teas.  Because of changes to the environment and other circumstances, we may not be able to reproduce the exact taste of traditional Dong Ding teas produced in the past but there is still much to be hopeful about, as tea farmers continue to learn and practice these arduous yet authentic techniques.

The Current Situation of Traditional Oolong Tea

Oral account/Lizhen Lu (former president of the Association of the Promotion of the Art of Chinese Tea General Meeting and owner of Zhen Wei Teahouse), Writing and organization/Yunying Zhang, Illustrations/Editorial Department

In Taiwan's development, tea was deeply impacted by society and history. At the beginning of 1971, Taiwanese raw tea exports for sale abroad were converted into delicate domestic trade routes. Following the elevation of the fragrance and flavor of Chinese tea, tea gained the affection of more and more people. The number of people drinking tea gradually increased, but at that time, Dong Ding Oolong tea, also known as traditional Oolong tea, received the most attention in Taiwan.

Properties Derived from the Environment
A plant should be in accord with the environment in which it grows, as that determines the substance content and results in the proportions of various components contained within. Just as terroir is stressed for red wine, so are the terroir and local flavor and style characteristics balanced for tea.

Among the quality, region, and production method of a type of tea, a different environment will result in variance and will influence the flavor of the tea. Take Mushan Iron Goddess of Mercy, for example: its environmental characteristics are a northerly latitude and an elevation of about 350 meters. Since it receives long periods of sunshine, the caffeine and tannin content of the freshly picked tea is quite high. The tea has a heavy quality on the tongue, and bitterness and astringency are high.

However, Gaoshan tea's growing environment is greater than 1000 meters above sea level. Atop the mist-shrouded peaks, it often gets foggy after noon. The duration of sunshine is short, and the caffeine content from the freshly picked leaves is low, it contains organic matter, is highly aromatic, and the pectin content is high. The tea's bitterness is low when drunk, and it has good sweetness. The mountain environment gives the tea nourishment for growth, but is its Achilles heel when it comes to processing. Due to insufficient sunshine, there are often problems with the fresh leaves during withering. There isn't enough moisture elimination and the tea's raw flavor is brought out.

Some tea merchants attribute these leaves' flavor to the alpine air, but this is misleading. From this phenomenon, we can discover that in the past and present, there is a difference between the manufacturing phase and consumer knowledge of the tea, and that the tea forms a fault line between the two.

Processing - the Missing Link
What we normally call traditional Oolong tea refers to tea that is heavily oxidized during processing. For example: Mushan Iron Goddess of Mercy and Dong Ding Ooling teas. In earlier periods, Dong Ding Ooling tea was highly oxidized and roasted and is in relative contrast to the "flavor" of present Gaoshan tea.

In 1971, the traditional Oolong tea produced by tea farms underwent withering in the sunshine for oxidization. A preliminary roasting, shaking, and other processes made the tea highly oxidized; during rolling, it was pressed in cloth by hand or foot. The tea took on a hemispherical shape and was called hemispheric Oolong; for drying, they would wait until the raw tea flavor had left the raw tea leaves, then perform the next step; the schedule was adjusted in accordance with nature, making the production process echo changes in nature.

These complicated but reliable production techniques lowered the moisture in the tea leaves to an appropriate degree. Not only was aroma stabilized, but the mouthfeel, flavor, and hardiness were also greatly increased. Moreover, it was suitable whether the tea was to be drunk right away or stored.

However, due to the conditions and characteristics of this type of tea, the flavor of traditional Mushan Iron Goddess of Mercy is intrinsically rather bitter. Thus, tea farms used a relatively high degree of oxidization, they were rolled quite a few times, and the roasting period was fairly long. In the end, that gave expression to Iron Goddess of Mercy's "aggressive" varietal flavor and transformed its original production shortcoming into its special characteristic.

However, Gaoshan tea currently only undergoes light oxidization, and most of the movement during processing is done by machine. Furthermore, some people believe that small farmers using traditional production techniques should be phased out and that large-scale mechanical tea production methods should be adopted instead. For example: factory-farm cooperation (small farmers don't have to set up factories, production is done by large factories).

This method not only can save on wages, but can mass produce the tea leaves, and is advantageous to the development of the tea industry, market, and economy. However, when tea leaves are machine-pressed, they do not acquire natural flavors. Manufactured tea is only mediocre and lacks any special characteristics.

I think the key lies in letting tea "be revealed." This doesn't refer to the degree of oxidization, but rather to every phase of the production process being in place, such as: the greatest taboo of traditional Oolong tea is the flavor of freshly picked tea, but "revealed" tea won't have a green tea or fresh-off-the-tree flavor, and is more conducive to subsequent tea craftsmanship.

However, besides needing to let the tea "be revealed," there is yet another key point, which is the tea's dryness. The moisture content must be less than five percent. When the tea broth has a freshly-picked or green flavor, that indicates the tea leaves have a high moisture content, and the tea will be bitter when drunk (the surface of the tongue will have a slight astringent feeling), and it will not be suitable for storage.

Roasting Preserves the Aroma
The main reason that nowadays tea mostly undergoes light oxidization and is not thoroughly dried is that at present, the "aroma" of the tea is emphasized. There are crude teas and raw teas that have a very apparent aroma when smelled.

Then how to stabilize the aroma? Tea that hasn't been sufficiently oxizised can be roasted directly after drying. The tea's fragrance will change with the high roasting temperature and will be preserved layer by layer. This changes the "evenness" in the original aroma into "hardiness." In other words, it reduces the shortcomings of the tea, decreases the acerbity, and increases its supple smoothness.  
Thus, when a tea farm performs roasting over a long period, the aroma is transformed from an obvious, richly charming flavor into a mellow rhyme. Take Lishan spring tea as an example: it has a clearly floral fragrance as a raw tea, but after roasting, it is transformed into a mellow floral and fruity scent, making it smell gentle and pleasant. The tea seems to cling to the mouth after entering, adheres and lingers, and takes the flavor to an even higher level.

I think the true characteristic one experiences when drinking tea is "flavor," not aroma. I have heard of something called "throat rhyme" in the past. In early times, tea was produced "in accordance with the heavens," and it was good for storing. I have some Taiwanese Oolong tea here from the year 1916. The depths of the tea soup have a burgundy translucence. After the tea enters the mouth, the sweetness instantly floods the oral cavity. There is a bit of acidity in the sweetness. Different levels of flavor dance upon the tongue and bring a feeling of numbness, also melting the body and mind.

Only vintage tea can have this flavor. It is like the properties contained within the tea are opened up. This is a feeling with which tea that has only fragrance can't even compare.

Industry - Things are no longer as they were
To date, along with changes in technology and the environment, people's demand for tea has also changed. The market has been influenced in accordance with these changes. For example, because modern people drink tea with increasingly light flavors, lightly oxidized teas have gradually gained popularity, such as the new Jinxuan varietals or Four Seasons Springtime.

In addition, tea information is basically guided by tea merchants. When consumers don't have objective information to compare with, it's very easy to feel that a certain tea suits you, and to then grow a preference for it - and after a while, to become accustomed to this type of flavor. In addition, there are still many issues around the sale of Taiwanese teas, such as that Taiwanese sales have a low profit margin. The same tea sold after 20 years still has a comparable or even lower price. These issues are not guided by a reasonable system, resulting in a chaotic market and tea farmers unable to maintain a livelihood.

Taiwanese tea's specialty lies in high quality. If quantity is demanded, how to preserve and maintain quality? Traditional craftsmanship pushed Taiwanese tea toward a peak and offers people memorable flavors. In comparison with the modern environment, I think the key factors were attitude and views toward tea.

This can't be achieved in just a few words. Based on my many years of marketing experience, many people like Taiwanese tea after coming into contact with it. I believe that with correct views and attitudes, Taiwanese tea can achieve another peak.