Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spring Tea Shopping

April 26th 2008

I arrived at Tao Yuan International airport and got my luggage. One of my bags was called out for inspection, and as you would have guessed if you knew me well, it was the bag full of tea. Why bring a suitcase full of tea to Taiwan you might ask and rightly so. I am bringing the tea back to Taiwan so that I can bake it. This will revitalize the tea. It will bring back a fresh flavor and give it a liveliness that is so wonderful in oolongs. The customs officer let me know that there is a limit to the amount of oolong tea that one can bring into Taiwan. The limit is one kilo and I had about twenty kilos of tea. I explained that this was all tea that I brought from Taiwan and luckily he let me bring the tea in, but explained that I would have to bring proof that this tea was exported from Taiwan if I was planning to do this again. I thanked him and headed for the bus that would take me to the high speed rail.
My train left at 8:20 pm and I arrived in Jia Yi (Chiayi) one hour later. Wow that was fast. My teacher met me at the Jia Yi train station and after stopping for a snack we immediately went to a tea farmer’s house. I asked him to show me the teas that are recent harvests. He gladly obliged by picking out three teas, but he wanted to give me a test. He weighed five grams of each and steeped them for three minutes each in separate professional tasting sets. Our mission was to tell him how the teas should be ranked according to taste from most expensive to least. Price is used as a measure because where taste is subjective, price is not. The higher the price usually means the higher the elevation at which the tea was grown.
I didn’t want to be influenced by the others tasting, so I knew I had to be fast. After smelling the leaves I cast my vote. Without even tasting the tea I had made my decision, and then I went onto to taste just to make sure. My teacher agreed with me, so I felt confident, but the other taster disagreed. As luck would have it, I was right.
I placed my order and within two hours of being in Taiwan I was in possession of 115 pounds of tea. You’ve got to love Taiwan!

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