Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ware's the Tea Ware? - by Anna V. Smith

People often come into J-TEA in search of tea ware to accompany their high quality teas from our teashop. These people are usually in two different categories. There are the tea drinkers who want volume, and there are the tea drinkers that want the experience. Of course there is general crossover, but let me explain further:

The tea drinkers who want volume are usually the ones that like the 16 ounce mugs of tea and big teapots akin to the kinds in restaurants, and are generally English style like our Forlife Teapot. Focusing on the volume of tea seems to be how most American tea drinkers work, it seems. I guess Americans in general like volume, whether its french fries or tea. These are sometimes the customers who come in and giggle at the portly 2 ounce teapots and call them cute or too small. They prefer tea in large amounts that they can take with them on the go, for which we recommend the Forlife Tea Infuser. I love it because it's so versatile; you can steep whole Camilla sinensis leaves or little chamomile flowers and it catches all the particulates. Plus, it fits a lot of different sized cups, which is convenient.
Traditional Yixing Teapot

The other tea drinkers want the experience. By "the experience," I mean the ritual of drinking tea. These folks are the ones who go for the 2 ounce tea pots and the porcelain cups. Sure, it's a small amount, but if you're planning on sitting there with friends for a few hours to drink tea, then it's no problem to keep filling up the tea pot to share it in your little cups. These are the ones who go for guy-wans and the Yixing traditional clay teapots, as well as the petite cups.

Of course, it doesn't matter which category you fall into. Many start with the first, and then as they gradually fall into tea, start to identify with the second category more. Both categories have the pros and cons depending on your preference, and I myself feel like I'm more of the volume person - I have both the Forlife teapot and infuser at home that I brew my tea in. Of course, I get to be in "the experience" category all day at work for other people.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

2014 Vertical Tea Tasting: Falling into Tea

It's been decided that this fall, J-TEA will conduct a series of tea tasting events in which we plan to drink several teas from the J-Tea collection, but in a different way than many of you might have experienced in the past. This is a vertical tasting, meaning that all of the teas to be tasted will be in the same category. We already compared six of the high mountain green oolongs and it was a blast. Next up is roasted oolongs. Additional tastings featuring Formosa, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Aged Oolong, Cooked Puer, and Raw Puer will be scheduled soon. The vertical tea tasting series might just take us right through the winter. In the interest of identifying particular flavors we will do our best to pull it off.

It's our hope that this series with help us understand what creates a flavor that we particularly enjoy and that you will find a tea or two that you are especially fond of and might not have previously known about.

Vertical tea tastings involve tasting teas that, by their categorization, are similar. Currently it's my opinion that this is one of the more important aspects of tea to study. For instance, how are two teas grown in the Dong Ding region similar or different and what factors contribute?

A couple of weeks ago we completed the first of our vertical tea tastings. We drank six high mountain green oolong teas. The teas were largely similar, with minor differences.

Here are the teas we tasted last time:

Spring Lily Spring 14 – A golden lily (jin xuan) varietal. Spring harvest Mei Shan Mountain, on the shoulder of Mt Ah Li. High mountain, approximately 1,200 meters.

Shan Lin Xi Winter 13 –A green heart (qing xin) varietal. Higher elevation, approximately 1,600 meters, Shan Lin Xi, Nantou Central Taiwan winter harvest.

Shan Lin Xi Winter 14 – Same as above, but 2014 vs. 2013.

Tai He First Stop Spring 13 – A green heart (qing xin) varietal. Grown on the back side of Mt. Ah Li, Approximately 1500 meters, spring harvest.

Tai He Sun Spring 13 – Same as the one above, but different farm and different processor.
Tai He Sun tea farm at harvest time.

Picking the fresh buds on the Tai He side of Mt. Ah Li.

Cui Ran Spring 13 – A green heart varietal grown at approximately 1800 meters, in the Li Shan mountain range, far from oceanic influence, Spring harves.

I gave participants some criteria to consider when evaluating the teas. We use the senses eyes, nose, and taster to evaluate...

Difference between winter and spring harvest
Difference between 2013 and 2014
Difference between golden lily (jin xuan) and green heart (qing xing)
Difference of elevation
Degree of oxidation
Degree of roast
Differences caused by processing

It’s fun to taste teas in the vertical format in an organized tasting with others. Last time, with the high mountain greens, people noticed the differences between the teas, although they were subtle. We used a standardized brew method in which we used 3g of each tea, brewed in the Jian Ding Bei (150ml) boiling water, and steeped for 5 minutes. Each person had an individual bowl of tea to ladle tea from with the white porcelain spoon into the small drinking cups. The spoons can then be used for smelling the aroma of the tea. The empty porcelain spoon, once having been dipped into the tea, retains the scent of the tea. It's strange, but it works. It's as if the scent sticks to the spoon.

When asked to pick a favorite, the participants grumbled for a bit and almost all of them had a different opinion. Exciting! No clear favorite. Some participants liked the Spring Lily best, some like the Shan Lin Xi Winter '13 best, some liked the Cui Ran best, and some liked the Tai He (both of them) best.

A few days after high mountain green oolong tasting, two guests returned to request that we have the next vertical tasting on a Friday. Apparently some people have trouble going to sleep after drinking copious amounts of tea. And for that reason, we are doing the vertical roasted oolong tasting on Friday, 10/10 from 6 to 8 pm. In order to help us prepare for the class, we are asking people to sign up in advance. If you would like to sign up, call or stop in the tea house on Friendly Street (541) 357-5492.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Falling into Tea

Green tea steeping in glass
Will you witness the fall? Warn your friends and family: tea is contagious! It has been known to obsess a person. I've seen on multiple occasions personal collections of tea that could not be consumed even in the course of three lifetimes. A person with this volume of tea for personal consumption has fallen into tea.

Tea…the plant that fueled the British industrial revolution, the plant that was symbolically and literally dumped into the Boston Harbor, the leaf from which by adding hot water you have the most widely consumed beverage the world over, second only to water. Many people drink tea as an everyday beverage. Tea people do, but how many Americans have an awareness of tea? America might be far from topping the list of per capita pounds of tea consumed per month, but I would wager a guess that the U.S. has the world’s largest latent tea drinking population. Latent tea people, upon waking, often with the help of some high quality tea, seem intent on making up for lost time.

Do you want to know one of tea's greatest health benefits?
It makes us feel good in the same way that drugs can make us feel good, but considerably less intense. Tea isn't just good for our bodies; it is also good for our minds. To someone like me, Caffeine plus L-Theanine equals brain euphoria. Tea is something magical, like laughter. To quote Jimmy Buffett, “If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.”

A latent tea drinker is a prime candidate and the only ones that actually fall into tea. The transformation from not having tea as a part of their lives, to not being able to imagine life without tea is profound.
Falling into tea is like if you fell into a well and it is impossible to get out. After visiting J-TEA a time or two, once they find themselves making tea for themselves at least once, if not three times per day. At three times a day, consumption would average about a pound per month. This is closer to the per capita consumption of Ireland, commonly the highest per capita tea consuming nation. You go from not knowing that you like tea to not being able to live without tea.
Stacks of oxidizing oolong tea


What are the signs that someone has fallen into tea?
-Brewing and drinking tea several times a day is a start.
-Collecting large quantities of tea for “personal consumption”
-Getting together with friends, expressly for the purpose of brewing tea
-Viewing the taking of tea to be a favorite activity
-Collecting a variety of tea ware
-Buying tea with the intent of aging it
-Buying certain tea ware for certain kinds of tea


Maybe they start a collection of rocks that will positively influence the water for brewing tea, or they are very focused on finding better quality of water for tea, or they have a tea travel case, maybe they take this travel case with them wherever they go, or they are building a tea aging area in their home, or they start a tea blog, a tea review site. They might take their own tea with them wherever they go. They might be in the habit of buying puer by the tong (seven cakes). And the surest sign that a person has fallen into tea is if they themselves go into the tea business.
The Tai He side of Mt. Ah Li. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coffee Vs. Tea by Andrew Hess

You can almost feel the tension build thinking about this one simple question: Do you drink coffee or tea? So often I hear this question presented in this manner: coffee or tea? Coffee, or tea? Why does it have to be "or"? I find, more often than not, people will have a specific answer one way or the other. This is when I find myself in the middle ground. I drink coffee AND tea. As a matter of fact, I drink a lot of both.
The similarities of the two drinks is impressive, and frequently I find that the people who only drink tea or coffee have the same reasons for sticking with their beverage of choice. And many of these people don't realize that the other drink may have just what they are looking for.
When you begin to look at the two drinks, you realize just how similar they are. These four things are just a few aspects that come to mind:

1. True with both coffee and tea: if pre-ground and low in price, you will never have as satisfying of a taste as a fresh ground, whole bean or full leaf tea.

2. You are able to find teas and coffees in a wide array of prices. These prices typically dictate quality as well, whether you are buying an ounce of Sun Moon Lake black tea or a pound of high quality Kopi Luwak coffee beans. The price will be high, but the quality is even higher.

3. Deep, roasty, sweet, floral, berry, savory, rich, malty: all words to describe coffee and tea.

4. People drink both to wake up in the morning, and some even drink them in the evening before going to sleep. People relax over cups of tea and coffee everyday.

While there are many similarities, for every one thing that is the same there is probably at least one thing that is different as well. One of the main differences I have noticed amongst the two cultures is using additives to the drink, namely cream and sugar. This is where I differ drastically between the two drinks. Allow me to explain: Right now my two favorite types of tea are high mountain green oolongs and formosa region teas. Both of these have more delicate flavors with many sweet, floral, buttery and smooth flavors. I prefer all of these unadulterated. Tea is, in my opinion, best enjoyed pure; simply water and leaves.
My coffee, on the other hand, is anything but "pure." While I do enjoy a good strong cup of black coffee, I prefer it on the sweeter side. This may be an understatement, actually. There have been times when I've had my "coffee" described as hot chocolate with a shot of coffee. Like with many things, this difference in preference shows that there is a time, place and mood for both drinks.
While I do find myself enjoying both drinks, I too am guilty of being able to distinctly answer the question: coffee or tea? If I had to pick one, it would always be tea for me. There are many reasons for this, but my main reason for this is the process. I am fully enthralled with tea, and I love the motions performed to brew tea in the gong-fu style. From the moment I open my tin of tea and smell its wafting scent, I can feel a wave of comfort and relaxation come over me. While I brew most of my coffee in the pour over style, which I guess is the gong-fu of coffee, I still never quite feel the enjoyment I get from gong-fu cha.
So while I thoroughly enjoy both drinks, the lack of process and care that coffee requires will always make it fall short of tea for me.

So what does all of this rambling boil down to? My name is Andrew Hess, I drink coffee AND tea, but given a choice between the two I will always reach for the cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Locally Grown Tea - Oregon Black Tea

People continue to be fascinated with the fact that there is locally grown tea right here in Oregon. Locally grown Camellia sinensis, no less. We are not talking about herbal tea, but the actual tea leaf, growing right here in Oregon.  

When picking tea, as with different tea types, there are different picks. With high mountain green oolong tea, the standard is two leaves and a bud. This means that you will often see the baby leaf, the tip, or the bud, accompanied by the two lower leaves.

I was looking at some "Two leaves and a bud" tea the other day. One thing I noticed,  it was three leaves and a very small bud. It is as if they waited just until the bud started to grow and then picked this batch of tea as if to nip it in the bud... See the two pics of Dong Ding Light Bake below:
Dong Ding Light Bake
Dong Ding Light Bake
And zooming in on the baby tip:

Then with something like the Yunnan Gold Tips, it is all tips, but the tips are much more mature than the tips of the Dong Ding Light Bake. The latest picking of the Minto Island Tea made me realize that if you are only going to pick tips, and only include tips into your batch of tea, then you can wait for the tips to get bigger. You can pick the tips when they are more mature. The tips will still be pliable and able to be influenced by the processing. 

But if pick more than just tips when the tips are already big, the additional leaves might be too mature. Try as you might to influence the leaves' rate of oxidation through massaging or rolling the leaf, you are wasting your time. These leaves have already developed a protective surface that make human manipulation nearly impossible. Maybe this is the over-mature orange pekoe that gets thrown to the leaf shredders for the cut and sift or the tea bag cut leaf processing. It's just too dang stubborn to do anything else with. If the bud is more mature than all we get to work with is buds.

There is nothing bad about that, it's just that you will have to pick a lot more tea because each pinch that is a plucking of the leaf from the plant is just of a bud.  Buds, even big buds, by their nature, are small and light weight. If you pick the two leaves and a bud, each pinch has more leaf as well as some stem which makes the weight of tea per pluck much more substantial, thus less picking.  


Below we have the locally grown Minto Island black tea. The big brownish leaf is what we want to avoid. Generally we want our tea to look consistent, but this leaf is the inconsistency. These leaves look this way because they were already too mature and too tough at the time of processing. We managed to pick most of these over mature leaves out. This most recent batch is our best batch yet. It has a lot of furry tips and this is promising. It has some similarities to a silver tip oolong. Flavor notes for the Minto Black include: pine, mint, cinnamon, and honey.

Minto Island Oregon Grown Black Tea 2014

Minto Island Grown J-TEA processed black tea, August 28th, 2014

Monday, September 08, 2014

Oregon Grown Tea

Minto Island Growers is a farm located in Salem, Oregon that has grown tea for over 20 years. It did take me a while to find out of their actual existence. Upon meeting Elizabeth's mother on our last visit up north, I learned that this was not an accident. It seems that the man behind the tea, Rob Miller, preferred not to publicize any of his tea experiments on the web. So after hearing rumors of the alleged tea farm in Salem, I went searching for them on the almighty Google, and there was nothing... nothing. What?!!! How could this be. I had no choice but to wait. And wait I did, almost a year.

Flash forward to present: working with Minto Island Growers to produce some high quality black tea. Is the stuff awesome? I'd say it is pretty good. But one of the challenges has been narrowing in on harvest times, as well as organizing the picking of the various flushes that come at different times of year. The plot was created as a tea experimentation plot by Rob Miller and several varietals of tea plants were planted on the land some 20 plus years ago. Mostly the tea just grew. They worked with experts and learned what they could, but were unable to produce anything that they felt confident bringing to market.


Now, J-TEA and Balez Oh'Hops Hanger are the only ones currently processing tea for Minto Island. You can also buy the J-TEA version from J-TEA, at the farm in Salem and at the Portland State University farmers market. The Minto Island Farm also has an amazing food cart that they sell delicious creations straight out of the farm.  Minto is the real deal.

It has been a great experience working to help bring this tea to market. Inspiring all the way. I've learned a thing or two about processing tea. Is it feasible that tea is a farming cash crop?  The answer to that question has yet to be proven. Signs say, US grown tea is coming to market.


To try our Minto Island black tea, you can order it online off our website, come into the shop to get a package, or try it by the cup.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Your Typical Taipei Field Trip

Like drunkards returning home from an all-nighter, we staggered away from the bus as the sun broke through the horizon to the left of us. We were tea people returning home after one of the most epic tea adventures ever. As we started out the day before, the plan was to take the high speed rail to Taipei, tour an artist's home, attend a spring roll festival, visit Taipei tea spots, meet elder tea teachers, and either sleep over or head back. The plan was left open, with room for flexibility. We got most of the way through it and here's what actually happened.

As soon as we got to Taipei, I broke off with Teacher Wang for a tour of Yang Po Lin's home / studio and a visit with the artist himself.
Teacher Wang had arranged the tour and invited me along the night before. I had no idea who he was so she quickly filled in with some background information. She made YPL out to be a national treasure. In short, he was an extraordinary artist who came from nothing and had a tough childhood.

We woke up early, at 7 am, to get on the 8 am high speed rail to Taipei. A big group of us were headed up. As our party convened at the rail station, I was temporarily alarmed to find that the party consisted of seven or eight upper middle-aged Taiwanese women. The scenario seems overwhelming this early in the morning. This dynamic presents a high level of cultural difference. But, after getting more sleep as we floated over the magnetized tracks at a speed that I am generally uncomfortable with, interacting with the group started to seem like it would be interesting. A friend of Teacher Wang picked us up at the Taipei Station. The driver, originally from Tainan, was using GPS to guide us to YPL's home. Although it guided incorrectly at first, we eventually made it to the windy mountain road that led to the house.

We parked the cars at the end of the drive ,which was more like a jungle road lined with a maze of shipping containers. The containers showed signs of use. My guess was that they were being used for work, storage, or something else completely. They defused some sort of creative energy and were in the process of being consumed by the jungle. I wanted to stay and explore, but the party was being whisked forward. Within the Taiwan jungle, there lay a public art piece. I wanted to slow down again and take it all in, but I would then be holding up the line, which wouldn't be polite, so I struggled to keep up. Upon entering, we were informed that we could take pictures, but were not to specifically take a picture of a particular piece, not to try to capture a piece in a photo. I wasn't really sure what this meant, so I observed. What I saw was mind expanding. I later learned that he rarely allowed people into this space, but Teacher Wang had insisted that we meet him here as it was vital to her research. He had agreed and he was a tolerant and gracious host. His assistant brought us personally specialized coffee, and he signed our names in one of his books if we chose to buy one. Of course I did and the copy of his rendition of my name is here:
My name in Chinese: 陳博倫
As he states in the English Preface – Craziness and Self-Discipline: “I was born in the most destitute fishing village of Yuanlin County.” His fate, to go from destitution to extreme wealth in the span of a lifetime, was a result of his creative endeavors. It was impressive, but I couldn't help but think that he was not yet satisfied. As I was clear that accomplishment and apparent success do not rid us of feelings such as emptiness or loneliness. I wanted to ask him, “Are you there yet? Have you reached your goal?” He probably would have said that each and every moment his goal is to be in the flow. Creating his vision and bringing it to life is the goal.

I signed his guest book with something to the effect of, “Your creative spirit leaves a path of inspiration in its wake,” or my best version of that in Chinese. He read it over and smiled because I used some strange Chinese words, but said that it was understood and acceptable. I am always glad to be understood...

As we piled back into the cars for the ride back down the hill, all of us were changed. Changed in the soul and serene. If you want to know what happened next, wait for me to brew up this next cup of tea...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Don't Dump that Tea!

The other day a customer asked how long the first rinse infusion should be. He mentioned that he had read that it was supposed to be about one minute. I let him know that one minute is a hearty infusion. However, that is because I am always brewing tea at a high tea-to-water ratio in little unglazed teapots that retain heat like a son-of-a-gun. This particular customer was brewing out of a bigger pot and using less tea. So I recommended that he add just enough water to fully cover the leaf, maybe a tiny bit more, and then pour this off immediately. This is long enough for a rinse infusion. I mentioned that some people even drink this first infusion. For those of you who see pouring out the first rinse akin to dumping tea into the Boston Harbor, there is also hope for you. Some tea masters even encourage consuming this first rinse. Maybe this will make sense as I explain that the first infusion is not as much of a rinse as it is a waking of the leaves.
As a warm infusion comes to an end - Photo by Andrew Hess
My goal for the timing of the rinse infusion when brewing the old fashioned gong fu way is to pour the liquid from the brew pot as quickly as humanly possible while refraining from appearing rushed. There are several steps that need to be taken when doing a rinse infusion. After bringing a freshly drawn pot of water to a boil, pour water from the kettle into the small yi xing pot, replace the lid to the small pot, return the kettle back to its home and pour the out the liquid from the small tea pot. It's ok to use both hands. The right hand can be doing one thing while the left is doing another. And, like a yoga routine, knowing what you are going to do next with your left hand, with your right hand, makes the process more fluid and thus quicker, speeding the whole process up a bit, while maintaining a sense of even pace and calmness. Practice makes perfect. Or in this case, because tea people are so much more humble by nature, practice makes better.

In Chinese, the technical term for this first rinse infusion is referred to as 溫潤泡 (wen1 run4 pao4) “warm infusion.” This is something I've only seen done with gong fu tea. People think that the point of the warm infusion is to rinse the tea leaves. You might have heard me say, “Tea is an agricultural product. Just like fruits and vegetables, before eating them, it is a good idea to wash them.” Now I just say, “hogwash.” The previous statement is hogwash. Whether or not tea needs to be rinsed, I am not sure. When people steep their PG Tips in a brown betty, is there a rinse involved?


The point of the warm infusion is to “wake up” the tea leaves. If you wake them up, they will be better suited to wake you up. Is that true? No... Waking the tea leaves means that you get them to open just a bit. Why do we need to do this? My current favorite reason is that it gets everything positioned in the pot just so, so that the next infusion, the first drinking infusion, will come off without a hitch. The water will pour smoothly from the pot without getting clogged. Does this always work perfectly? No, but when it does, the feeling is sublime. It takes a bit of practice, and this part of what makes the reward of well steeped tea so sweet. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tea People

As butterflies dance around each other, so too do people get to know tea. Sometimes they are dancing around tea, but they haven't yet been made the connection. The greatness of tea is still outside of their awareness. There is a special kind of tea person: the tea person who is a tea person before they even know they are a tea person. We can call them a latent tea person. A person who loves tea, but does not yet know they love the tea. This is mostly because they have either not had the right kind of tea, a good tea, or they have not had tea presented in a way that makes them fall in love with the tea. But once they experience the right tea in the right setting, that is just what happens, they fall... and fall hard, deep into the world of tea. They are different than the average person who gets into tea, because when they do, it's as if they have just met a long lost friend. There is no doubt for them that tea fits into their life. They know they will be enjoying high quality tea from that moment when they first experience it until they are no longer with us, here on this earth.


It's funny, after being in the tea business for a while, I can practically smell a tea person, even a tea person who does not yet know they are a tea person. I can almost tell by looking at them, and observing the way that they hold themselves. But then after talking with them for a bit, I can be 90 percent sure if they are a tea person or not. What are some common characteristics of a tea person? They like to travel to distant lands and learn about cultures that are very different from their own. They might be a food person, or a wine person. They are generally into expansive thinking and view the world through a positive framework. They are very often intellectual and exploratory in their thinking, meaning that they want to learn how to view the world and their place in the world in a positive light. Sometimes people are into tea for their own reasons. I once had a customer tell me that he drinks tea because he doesn't eat vegetables. Thus, a tea drinker is a tea drinker, but they might not be a tea person.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lin Tai Ping, Are You Dead Yet?

I met Lin Tai Ping about ten years and the man struck me as a nut. He was crazy, crazy about joking. On my last trip, I was sitting in a local tea shop when I looked over and saw this old guy ordering a drink. He had a hat on pulled down, so it was hard to make out his features, but his voice was familiar.

“Lin Tai Ping,” I called out his name. He walked toward me saying, “I am Lin Tai Ping.”
“I know,” I answered.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I am that foreigner friend,” I answered.
“Oh, that is you! You are more handsome than before. I didn't recognize you.”

He sat down with his tea and asked me if I wanted one. “I've got one,” I said, showing him mine. In our greetings, since I know he is a big fan of photography, I showed him the six physical photographs of Elijah that I carried with me everywhere I went. He was pleased, laughing and cajoling as if Elijah were there in person.

“He looks just like you! It is amazing. Look, look,” he said holding the photo up for Uncle Ray to see. “This baby is this man's child,” he said pointing at me.
“There is no way that kid is his. I've met his wife. There is no way that the two of them made this baby.” Uncle Ray said skeptically.
“You are an idiot!” he says to Uncle Ray. He turns to me, “That man is stupid,” he says.
“He's jealous,” I reply.
“You are an idiot, Uncle Ray! Look at how much this child looks like him.” He gives me back the pictures and starts talking to me.

“Do you know, I just had the funniest thing happen to me. The newspaper reported that a man from Taiwan was traveling in Mainland China and was the unfortunate victim of a bus accident. His name was Lin Tai Ping, the same as mine, and he was the same age as me.” I'd heard about this story, and it was fun to hear it straight from the man himself.

“I tell you, my Auntie is 90. She saw the news at midnight. She didn't want to call so late, but she was so worried. She waited as long as she could, but when she couldn't take it anymore, she called me at 4:30 in the morning. My phone was on, but when I answered, I was still half asleep and my voice was very horse. “Who is this?” she asked. “Lin Tai Ping,” I answered. “No, really. Who is this?” “I am Lin Tai Ping.”

After she knew it was me, she started crying and told me that she was so worried. In the end, 83 people called in after hearing the news story, enough people for Tai Ping to start to have some fun with it. When a good friend would call, Tai Ping would answer, “This is Lin Tai Ping, I am dead.” When his religious cousin called, he answered, “I am sitting next to God now. Is there anything you want to ask him?” Tai Ping describes his sense of humor as a contagion. “Maybe you are in a bad mood and don't feel like joking. But by the time I am done with you, you will be joking right along.”

I ask this man what he is doing out and about. He is a professional photographer by trade and as luck would have it, he is in the neighborhood to take some pictures. At first he played it cool and humble, “Oh you know, I'm just on a walk about with my old friend the Nikon here. You know about this kind of Nikon? These things take amazing pictures.” He has some Nikon S2 Range Finder from about 50 years ago in mint condition.

“You know, a funny story about these kind of cameras,” he starts “I was in France taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and I see a French man with the same camera. But he didn't have the original lens like I do. He said he couldn't afford it. So I told him that in Taiwan, only poor people buy these cameras. The guy was shocked and he was wondering how it could be true. I told him it was absolutely true, because after you buy one, you are in the poor house. The man said, well all be damned, I had no idea everyone in Taiwan is so funny.”

Now that I got him talking, he gives me a copy of a postcard that his photo was featured on. “I was recently in this photo exhibition. The exhibition featured some carving, some calligraphy, and some photography. You know, calligraphy is a very important part of Chinese art and culture. Hey, I have something I want to give you. I'll be right back.”
“No, no, Taiping don't worry about it,” I protest. “Come on, take it easy.”
“Will you be here?”
“Yes, I'll be here writing my journal, but don't worry about it. You go on with your day.”

He could see that in earnest, I didn't want to accept his gift. In order to circumvent any attempt at politeness he rebutted, “I'm not giving it to you, I'm giving it to your son. Now, you say, I'll be ready for you when you come back, like we are going to fight, and then I'll say, I'll be back to settle the score with you. That way it sounds like we are getting ready to scrap and it makes us sound cool and tough.”

Here is this 64 year old man acting like he wants to fight with me. So I'm writing and writing, and guess who pops back...Tai Ping. He grabs an manila envelope, opens it, and unfolds a series of words. “Long Fei Fong Wu,” he states. It means “Dragon Flies, Phoenix Dances.” I actually came here to take a picture of this tree. He points to the tree across the street. The funny thing about Tai Ping is that he is always observing. He is always looking at the changes in patterns and mostly, I think, the changes in light. He had noticed it, the moment he was waiting for, and he went out in the street to get a photograph of the tree. I could hardly pick up my phone and chase after him fast enough to get a couple of photos of him taking pictures of the tree. Then I went to the exact spot where he was crouching and assumed the same position and took a photo. I took it back and showed him.
 “Pretty good,” he said. “But my picture doesn't have this post and this building, just the tree and the sun.”

He showed me where the sun was through the clouds. So I went back and retook this photo according to his instructions. I proudly showed him and he said, “Now you are getting it.”
Then we got a group shot together, and when he is getting up to go, I thank him for the calligraphy. “When I die, that will be worth a lot of money. When you come back, come visit me. You can come to my house. Bring your son and he and I can box each other.” The image of this man in his sixties or seventies boxing with my toddler pops into my head and we both start laughing.  


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sun Moon Lake Solstice Tasting Recap – Anna V. Smith & Josh Chamberlain

photo by Anna Smith 
Saturday's tasting of Sun Moon Lake tea for the summer solstice yielded a great group of people eager to explore new tea and thought. Here are a few of their descriptions of the tea itself:

"Nice vermilion color. Hints of mint, menthol, and prunes. Astringent." - John

"The tea is bold and at first shocking, but then almost instantly refreshing. The flavor was a taste unrecognizable but is very calming. I think besides the flavor the tea was unusually intense/striking. As the tea unfolds, it softens and it seems as if it matches the flavor." - Darren

"The perfect Solstice Celebration tea. Slight minty flavor, feels smooth on the tongue. Can taste hints of traditional Assam." - Eileen.

photo by Anna Smith
Notes by Josh Chamberlain:
The tea was brewed in glass tea ware and it was brewed a little bit light. The two factors might have something to do with each other. One participant noted that the overall body feeling was distinct. He was describing the feeling in his own body, no

t the body of the tea. He mentioned that checking in with the feeling in his body and had a sense of lightness and euphoria, and an overall sense of well being. He asked us to check in ourselves with this feeling. I did notice the feeling and he asked me to talk about this, but I was a bit shy on the subject. "I feel it, but I don't like to talk about it because I'm not sure how much of it is the power of suggestion." "Yes, but do you feel what I am talking about?" "Yes." And I did. It was the feeling of ultimate tea euphoria, in which somehow by just drinking a tea, we are buzzing with contentedness. It's as if the feeling is created in the room. People realize that the feeling is there and they cherish that feeling. It almost amplifies the power of the feeling.

What a wonderful tea experience! I feel so grateful having shared the day with fun tea loving people.
I was also able to share my summer solstice poem with the group. It’s still under revision because it isn't done, but nonetheless stands as:

Have you ever felt the sun and the moon at the same time?
In the dead of winter, this feeling is sublime
Shuffle the deck, let your heart decide
We enter the world alone, with nothing to hide
On the moons face burns the sun
The longest day! The longest day calls for celebration!
The sun says, “Moon, I don't need your help today.”
The moon says, “Sun, today is your day.”
Evolving as we revolve around the sun
Soon to become that which was once undone.

It was 5:18 pm when the light started to seem a bit dark. Anna flipped the light switch. The hue had textural value. Because of its crowd pleasing nature, it hung around for the rest of the party.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Winter Solstice Poem

On the eve of summer solstice, I've decided to post last years winter solstice poem. Just a reminder of how far we've come, and where we are headed.

Teahouse 6/1/2010

Dark, as we move from the depths of the
Bah-Hum-Bug
Warm beams transform us with rays of energetic light,
As decay manifests, taking hold...
When it seems things just can't get any worse, but then they do, because anything is possible.
With the unfolding of life's cycle, with something as simple as the knees of bees.
It starts with a giggle, gurgling warm until a full boiled laughter takes hold.

Until darkness peaks, and there is nothing else but... light.

Gettin' to Know Tea... With Anna V. by Anna V. Smith

J-TEA impacts people in a lot of different ways when first coming into the teahouse. Some are excited to find such a vast treasure trove of hard-to-find teas. Some are awed at the selection, and can't wait to explore each category. Others are overwhelmed by the choices, since they feel that they don't know "enough." I was certainly the latter, when I came into J-TEA a few years ago for the first time. I didn't know anything about tea, and had essentially nixed it off my list of beverages since all the teas I had drank thus far were either watery and tasteless, or too fruity or bitter.

The first time I came in, Josh gave me a puer to try and I was shocked at the fullness of flavor; it tasted like sweet soil and minerals, and made me think of a damp forest floor covered in pine needles, the scene of so many Willamette Valley hikes. I was surprised how a flavor I'd never tasted could so easily transport me to another place.

Since then, I've explored green oolongs, roasted oolongs, formosas and puers, though still shying away from the herbals and strong black teas like Lapsang Suchong. At this writing, a few of my favorites are the Bee's Knees Bird's Nest Puer, and the Dong Ding Triple Blossom Roasted Oolong. A big reason why I was overwhelmed when I first came in was a feeling of intimidation, and knowing that I had a big hole in the section of my brain marked "Tea Knowledge." The good news is that it's not hard to start learning about it, you just have to be willing to start drinking lots of cups tea, and have the patience to try, try again.

I also discovered that my initial disregard for tea was based off of generic low-grade teas; it wasn't that I didn't like tea overall, I just hadn't been exposed to the teas that I like. So, if you come in and have no idea where to start, Josh, Andrew and I will do our best to get you started on the path to finding right tea for you. It'll be fun, I promise!



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Oolong Rise Up!

Chinese is a fun and interesting language, albeit a difficult language. What other language would call an airplane a flying machine, or a computer an electric brain, or a kind of tea, black dragon? One of the cool things about Chinese is that there are infinite possibilities for those who enjoy word play. But sometimes, even for those who have been studying Chinese for decades are taken aback by learning about just how much there is to know.

Just on this last trip to Taiwan, I learned a new word play joke, that I might have said before, but didn't grasp its full meaning until this trip. When people would ask me, “What are you doing in Taiwan?” and I would answer, “我來找茶” or “I came to look for tea.” One person with a good sense of humor thought I was saying “我來找碴” or “I come looking for trouble.” You see, 找茶 (look for tea) and 找碴 (to pick fault with/to nitpick/ to pick a quarrel) have the exact same pronunciation and the exact same tone. This joke evolved into the following sentence: 在台灣當時找茶,跟美國茶界找碴。“While I'm in Taiwan looking for tea, I find a fault with the U.S. tea world.” My quarrel is over the term blue tea. As I stated in my previous post “The Color of Oolong is Never Blue,” calling qing cha “blue tea” is a mistranslation. Qing cha is, in fact, a category of oolong tea that is less oxidized and closer to the green end of the oolong spectrum.

This term “blue tea” was really getting to me. It's as if one source started calling oolong blue, and everyone follows. Now it is as if everyone is copying everyone else. Oolong is not blue tea. Oolong has never been blue and it never will be. Given the difficulty of this beautiful language, it is no wonder that when presented with a word, like “qing,” that can be translated both as green and blue, there is some confusion. I knew that there was some confusion, so I decided to get to the bottom of it.


I asked a tea teacher in Taiwan, “What color is qing?” He showed me a color very close to the blue on this pouring pitcher shown above. My heart sank. Maybe they are right in translating qing cha as blue tea, I thought. He went on, “But when we are talking about tea, this is not the color. When we are talking about tea, qing cha is green. In fact it is supposed to be the color of a frog's back. It includes green, red, and even white. This is qing's color when it comes to tea.” In this case 青色 “qing se” or the color of qing, and 青蛙 “qing wa” or frog use the same first word, 青”qing.” Like I mentioned in my previous post, I think most Americans can learn to call oolong simply “oolong” and don't need to rely on an arbitrary color code.

Oolong Qing Cha is the color of a frog's back. Frog's Back Oolong... An oolong by any other name would taste as sweet. Let's just not call it blue.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Oolong Curiosity

As we get to know oolong tea, curiosity is a great mindset to have. This mindset of experimentation allows us to be open to all of the flavors that oolong has to offer. Brewing oolong is a constant experience in trial and error. In the beginning, it is common to brew the tea too weak or too strong. If the tea is too strong, the tea is bitter. But with high quality tea, even bitter tea has something to offer. This bitter flavor is less familiar to the American palate, but in Asia, bitter is a flavor that is also appreciated. Bitter flavor has the ability to remove heat from the liver. The heat of summer is the best time of year to go for bitter. When high quality tea brewed too strong, a string of deep rich floral and fruit undertones delightful to the senses can follow the initial bitter flavor. A pleasant surprise.


Industry practice for comparing tea:

When we compare two teas it is important to use the exact same standards for each tea. To compare teas fairly, it is important to use the same amount of tea. Often professional tasters will use 3g or 5g of tea. The same temperature water. For most oolong teas, tea masters in Taiwan will use water that has just boiled. Use multiple sets of the same tea ware. This way, differences in tea ware will not cause any unfair advantage to either of the teas. My favorite tea ware for comparing teas is the Jian Ding Bei, or professional tea tasting set. By using the same tea ware, it is easier to use the same amount of water. This is important, because the tea-to-water ratio should be the same for each tea. Finally, brew each tea for the same amount of time. Often, professionals will brew multiple teas at the same time. This is tricky at first, but gets easier with practice. This is a good practice because it is also important to taste the teas side by side at similar temperatures. Our senses are always in flux. Slurping is a technique used to enjoy a tea's entire breadth, as well as replace what was previously on the palate. By slurping the tea deep into the sinuses, through the roof of the palate it is possible to go through a line of several teas and make decisions and not become overwhelmed or confused about the flavors.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Blue Tea

The first time I heard the term “blue tea”, I thought it was totally bogus. A UO professor asked me if I'd ever heard of this kind of tea before. When I said that I hadn't, he offered to bring me a copy of a book that he had just brought back from Mainland China. Flipping through the book, I was shocked to see that the tea the author classified as blue tea was oolong. I dismissed it as a fluke and hoped I would never come across the term again. If only I had been so lucky...

I have one request of the tea world. Let's agree not to call oolong blue tea. More and more, I see books and magazine articles referring to oolong as blue tea. We have to put a stop to this. I am slightly color blind, and maybe for that reason, I want things that are called blue to really be blue, or sad, and oolong is neither of the two. 青 or “qing” is one type of oolong. Qing can be translated as either green or blue. This category of oolong is what we at J-TEA refer to as “green oolong.” We call it green oolong, well, because it is green. But maybe, because qing can be translated as either green or blue, then maybe it could be called blue tea. But in my mind, for the reason stated above, and because qing is only one type of oolong, it should not be called blue. To leap from this one mistranslation, to calling the entire category of oolong “blue tea” is absurd.
An example of qing oolong tea

When I was trying to make sense of this nonsense, I reached out to the online tea community. “Tea enthusiasts, what is this nonsense about calling oolong blue tea?” It was here that I learned that there was some genius who thought, because other tea categories were named by color, that all teas should be named by color. This makes sense right? I mean white tea is not white, and black tea is not black, unless it is Lipton, which uses food coloring, so why can't oolong be blue? I guess we could if we really want it to be.



But do we? Do we want to be this lazy in our approach to classifying tea? Are we really going to call roasted oolongs, amber in color, the traditional color of oolong, are we going to call this blue? Formosa oolong's or eastern beauties; intoxicatingly translucent red, are we going to call this blue? Traditional iron goddess of mercy, a dark rich ruby red, should we call this blue? I must protest. I must find a way to put a stop to this. There is such a wide range of oolong teas, and it makes no sense to give them the color code blue. Classifying all oolong as blue is too lazy, and classifying qing as blue is a mistranslation. So it looks as though I have another fight with the tea world's status quo. Let it be known that I am fighting for transparency, not obfuscation. We can all say oolong, weather you spell it oolong or wu long. So say oolong like you mean it, like you are proud, and it won't be too long before everyone knows this amazing category of tea by its proper name.  

Aged 1986 Dong Ding Oolong, looking anything but blue.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Psychology of Tea – Laughter and Appreciation


The psychology of tea is stuck in my head. On reflection, I have a lot to say about this subject. This is a huge topic simply because there are so many psychological benefits of tea. There is no doubt in my mind that tea has many subtle benefits to health, both physical and psychological. Just today, taking my first sip of tea, I am revived. “I can make it. I will overcome my obstacles. I will achieve my goals. Life is good. Gratitude.” All of this came to mind the moment the tea touched my lips. This is the profound impact of tea.

Psychology in a nutshell... our interpersonal relations, who we get along with, why we get along with them, how we get along with ourselves. Why do we dislike the people we dislike? What are our obstacles? How do we overcome them? What is our outlook? People are difficult to understand. Even understanding ourselves is difficult, let alone understanding others.

Tea has an introspective energy, shedding light on the essence of who we are. This provides the opportunity for personal growth.

Many people have described before how, for example, by setting aside a time for tea for the whole family, when the whole family comes together to drink tea, improves familial relations. This is akin to eating meals together as a family. It is a way to spend time together. On multiple occasions, more than I can count, and more than I am even aware of, tea has facilitated with a feeling of togetherness, bringing people together, establishing connection, and a sense of well being.

“If I've taught you one thing, it's how to pivot.” Martin told me this after I conveyed to him the following experience. I was conducting a tea tasting at The Kiva. Several teas were in the line up, steeping in the Jian Ding Bei, professional cupping set, and decanting into colorful teapots. One steep at a time, doling out the samples, until that infusion is used up. Then I steep the leaves again. This process is repeated several times until the leaves have lost most of their luster. I only brew one infusion at a time, so there is just a little bit of tea sitting in the colorful teapots at any given time. I do this, so that when I pour the sample into the porcelain sample cup, the tea is hot. This works pretty good, but on this particular day, business must have been slow. I'd been there a couple of hours, steeping and re-steeping, and my mind was starting to wander. A man approached and I cordially offered him a taste of tea. Upon tasting the tea, the man complained, “This tea is cold.” Something about his attitude, maybe it was his lack of appreciation, was less than endearing. So I answered, “No, the tea isn't cold. You are late.”

As soon as the words left me lips, my core was vibrating with a sound and sensation similar to that felt when sitting at the base of a huge waterfall. This was Martin's laughter. Uncontainable and wild, not in bursts, but more like a lion's roar.

I remember feeling afraid that I would forget things about Martin, but I can hear it as clear as the day we were sitting on his sailboat and I told him this story. He liked my story. “That is a pivot!” he exclaimed. This is the psychology of tea. And it is true, the pivot, he taught me well.

感恩 


Monday, June 09, 2014

Tea House Takeover - Josh Answers Questions About Tea

We recently had a group of special visitors from So Delicious Dairy Free take over the tea house for a private tea class. This was fun for several reasons, but one of the fun things was hosting a class for seventeen enthusiastic food people. They were very interested in learning about tea.
I asked the group to give us a list of questions at the beginning of the class so that I could address the questions as we went. Below, I've included a list of the questions and some answers.



What are the temperatures and times for brewing different teas?
Let it be known that my favorite way to make tea is in the small unglazed Yi Xing tea pots. This brew method is commonly known as “gong fu cha”. I use these pots for oolong and puer. This brew method is outside the scope addressed in this class. We used what I refer to as a benchmark brew method. The teas brewed are: Green Spring, Charcoal Dawn, Eugene Breakfast, Scholar's Mountain, Cooked Kilo Brick, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Eastern Beauty Twisted Leaf, and Starry Night.

We used the same brew method for each tea. Four grams of tea, water right off the boil (210 degrees Fahrenheit), steeped for two minutes in ten ounces of water. We used the Forlife infuser and a twelve ounce glass teapot to steep these teas. At the time of this blog post, almost all of the teas we sell at J-TEA can be brewed this way. We wouldn't want to brew Japanese green tea this way, but we do not currently have Japanese green tea on hand. Using the same method for each tea simplifies the process. One of our goals is to make tea brewing easy for people new to tea. After tasting the tea, you have a benchmark, or a general idea of the teas characteristics. Depending on how you like this infusion, you can adjust make some adjustments the next time you brew. If you like the taste of this infusion, great! If it is too bitter, you can either reduce the water temperature, or reduce the steep time. If the tea is too strong you can either reduce the amount of tea used, reduce the brew temperature, or reduce the brew time. If the tea is too weak, you can either increase the brew time by one or two minutes, or increase the amount of tea used. After brewing for two minutes, we steeped the tea again for four minutes. Remember, with high quality tea it is possible to steep the tea several times for multiple infusions.


Do / can you grow tea plants here?
The answer is yes. Many of you have tried our Minto Island Farm tea. This is all grown in Salem, Oregon, just one hour north of J-TEA. We also have several tea plants living at the J-TEA tea house that survived the great freeze of 2014. These plants are hearty and are growing in popularity.

What is the process of processing tea, from plant to package?
This will vary greatly from region to region. It will also vary greatly depending on what tea the farm is trying to produce. This subject is a bit dry and there are a variety of books and articles devoted to it. I'd say that the main flaw with everything written about this that I have seen is that they often do not cover the extensive amount of variation in that can occur within any particular process. Imagine a wine master making a pinot noir. There are infinite variations in the process that can occur depending on the variations that exist within any agricultural product. If you want to learn more about this you might check out Wikipedia's tea processing page.

What are functional teas?
Functional teas are teas that are meant to cure. These teas are generally herbal and have specific medicinal benefits. A good example of a company that produces functional teas is Traditional Medicinals.


What causes tea euphoria?
L-Theanine combined with caffeine. This is what Geoffrey Norman has referred to as “happy juice.” Tea makes you happy, there is no doubt about it, and the better the tea, the happier it can make you. Another common tea term is “tea drunk.” Tea drunk or “Cha Zui” is the result of drinking too much tea. It really has a euphoric overtone and has a similar feeling to being a bit high. But generally this over consumption of tea is not viewed as healthy and from my experience, it's fun to experience when you first start getting into to tea, but over time, as one gets further and further down the road of their tea existence, this feeling becomes less and less appealing. Tea is a good thing, but like all things, moderation is key. The amount of tea one can drink in a day will vary from day to day. I find that if I have enough rest and eat three good meals, then I can drink more tea. If I am not taking care of myself, then I often feel like drinking less tea. You can pay attention to the way you feel regarding tea. If you feel like drinking more, it is ok to drink more. If you feel like drinking less, just drink less. 


What is tea culture in other countries vs. US tea culture?
US tea culture is in its infancy, but it is growing fast. One of the main differences is that in countries where tea culture is strong, such as Taiwan, China, India, and Japan to name a few, tea culture is very old. Having been around for an extended period of time creates depth. There is a popular saying in Taiwan, “If I am not in the tea house, I am on the road to the teahouse.” The people that say this are basically saying that they live within tea culture. They don't have to be drinking tea at any given moment, but they have tea in their heart and they are living in a way that is profoundly impacted by tea. Tea is on the mind all of the time.

Much of US tea culture is very commercial. Much of the tea sold in the US has perfume added. Pick up a package of tea in your local super market. Read the ingredients. If you see “natural flavors” listed, don't buy it. These flavors are not good for us. Natural flavors are chemically synthesized in a laboratory. They are artificial; not real food. The only reason to add anything to a tea is that the tea quality is lacking. Much of the US tea culture is focused on selling tea regardless of quality.

We'd like to thank So Delicious Dairy Free for creating this private tea class. We would also would like to thank them for their great questions. It is was a good time drinking several types of tea. I will now start boiling water to brew up a pot of oolong tea to help me think of the topic of our next blog post. Until then, keep sipping great tea!




Sunday, June 08, 2014

What is oolong?


Widely defined, oolong is the range of tea between green tea and black tea. This is a broad range of tea. Ranging from 11% oxidization for the greenest oolongs, such as Wen Shan Bao Zhong, and then going all the way to 70% oxidized, for the eastern beauties and some iron goddesses. There is also aged oolong, which is further oxidized after processing, so it is often referred to as “post oxidized tea.”
Oolong is complicated and, for the most part, is not well represented in the U.S. Generally a tea shop will carry one or two oolongs generally not of very high quality. So, as a predominantly oolong focused tea purveyor, one of our constant objectives has been to redefine oolong to the consumer. We do this by getting people to taste high quality oolong.

Sometimes we even go so far as using stall tactics when offering samples. When asked about what kind of tea we are offering as a sample, we wait until the person has tasted the tea. That way they can come to their own conclusion about the tea, rather than judging it based on a name. Then we say... It's an oolong. Surprise! You like oolong! It is true, we are confident that you like oolong tea, you just might not know it yet.

Meaning that if you do not like oolong, it is probably because you have not had a good one, or it was not prepared well. Either way, this is a sad state of affairs. But, it is also why we will continue to toe the party line, dousing the nation with amazing oolong tea. We've got oolong way to go, but we've made it J-TEA's mission to expose everyone to amazing oolong tea.



Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Psychology of Tea


The psychology of tea is such a hot topic in Taiwan right now. With psychologists as parents, I've tried to write on this topic previously. He Lao, a friend and tea teacher, mentioned to me that people have written about the psychology of tea, but everything written so far has been a bit shallow. “They just say things like: having a ceremony makes you feel calm, and that this type of tea has this kind of effect and so on,” he begrudgingly remarked. Keep in mind that when He Lao is speaking of tea, he is not talking about herbal tea and he is not suggesting that we achieve some type of altered psychological state by drinking a hallucinogenic tea.

He said, “What we need are some real scientific findings or opinions on the psychological benefits of tea.” I explained that I tried to get some of these answers from my parents, two exceptionally qualified psychologists. Unfortunately, this did not work. Why is a psychologist going to talk about why tea is good, unless they have a vested interest? When Martin was alive, I tried to get him to talk about tea and he wouldn't let me pin him down on anything. This was insightful in of itself because I knew that he would have done practically anything to help me and my tea business. But he wouldn't let me say that he said anything regarding “the psychology of tea.” The message was loud and clear. Any psychologist worth his or her salt would not endorse a product, no matter how good it might be.


So I have decided instead to focus on the psychology of tea as I know it: buying tea, doing tea business, and learning about tea in Taiwan as well as how to live your life. If you want to live well... drink tea.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

If I'm not in the tea house, I'm on the road to the tea house.

Taiwan is a country rich with tea culture. It is a place where it is not difficult to find yourself surrounded by tea and tea paraphernalia. It is a world in of itself, and stepping into this world can be as vast as jumping into the ocean. This world is commonly known as “The Tea World,” and it’s made up of tea people. These are the people that eat, breathe, drink, and live tea. Sometimes they are tea vendors or they sell tea ware, maybe they are artists who have a tea room. Or they are involved in tea production such as growing tea or roasting tea. Nonetheless, tea is very important to them and it plays a major role in their lives.

I remember when I first got close to the precipice that is the divide of the tea world. I was warned...“Be careful.” Many people have thought it would be fun to play with tea, only to fall into the vastness of the tea world. Once you fall in, it is difficult to get out. As I've seen time and time again, people have invested most of their time, energy, and finances into tea. Once they get in deep, they truly are in for life. It is not a bad thing. It is just something that with will change one’s life. It is not something that happens at once, but it is the beginning of a new path. Often, this path leads to many unexpected adventures and opportunities to learn.


The depth of feeling that exists in the tea world of Taiwan is profound and it has been my luck to know it as I have. With this trip, the journey continues.