Tea tours are so much more than just tea—they immerse you in the lives and richness of the cultures you’re visiting and this is a big reason I go.
I started out writing this post as a chronology of our eight days, but it got too wordy and I decided to just tell you about some things I loved, observed, learned, and just experienced. (I have posted many pictures on my Experience Tea Facebook page so please take a look at these.)
The tour organizers and hosts were Elyse Peterson & Rie Tulali of Tealet. Each year, they include a few people to accompany them on their annual tea gardens tour. In Taiwan they have a close friend who is a tea farmer—Alfredo—who made sure we experienced the most that Taiwan tea has to offer. We actually stayed at Alfredo’s mother’s house and were wonderfully accommodated. This tea tour was rich, indulging and educational—yet simple and easy. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the whole tour.
Tealet is a company dedicated to sourcing and supporting small tea farmers who grow without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Elyse, Rie and Alfredo
Generosity of Taiwanese People
This was most impressionable—tea farmers, tea masters, and people who were not actively selling us tea, but wanted to share their teas, their foods, homes and experience. We were welcomed in a number of places to watch the tea processing and saw many different styles. Taiwan is best known for exquisite oolongs, but we participated in making white and black teas with oolong cultivars.
Our Taiwan host Alfredo, estimated the average age of tea farmers to be 55 while the average age span of tea pluckers (tea aunties) is 65 to 75. Because many of the young Taiwanese are choosing to move to the cities, young people from other countries are coming in to pick tea.
Each tea area of Taiwan has its own style of tea as well as rich culture. Taiwan has long been known for high quality oolongs, but we also experienced production of white and black teas. Tea provides a livelihood—and as important–pride and purpose.
Many and Varied facets of Beauty
Beauty was everywhere—in the cities in the faces of the people and our universal commonality, the colorful hats of the tea aunties, the hillsides of tea bushes, the mist on the higher elevation mountains, bamboo forests, the beauty of the steeped tea leaves and the rich tea liquor they released, and the tea houses with beautiful tea ware collected from decades past.
Sounds, Smells, Tastes
Each day in Mingtian (after the rain stopped) I woke to the sounds of doves cooing and roosters crowing in the distance. It was comforting and calming while I indulged in my morning tea.
I loved to hear the chatter of the tea aunties while they plucked tea.
While we were in Hsinchu County the many orange and grapefruit groves were in full bloom and the slight humidity accentuated the incredible smell of the blossoms—I couldn’t get enough of it.
Food and meals are very important and we ate well on this tour! From noodles in the morning to roasted whole chicken at noon, to traditional bar-b-que in the evening. Every meal included fragrant vegetables cooked with a multitude of spices.
The tea I managed to buy and/or was gifted includes:
Ruby 18 white (Elyse, Rie and I hand-shaped before firing/drying)
Dong Ding oolong, very light roast
Dong Ding oolong, medium roast
Dong Ding black
Da Yeu Ling oolong
Ali shan oolong
Oriental Beauty oolong
I have very little quantity of these teas and will be featuring them in my “Experience Taiwan Teas” class on Sunday, May 7 (experience-tea.com/Class-Calendar).
Each tea tour has been truly magical—adding experiences of people, culture and tea. Each tour brings more depth to my appreciation of the world.