Saturday, April 25, 2009

In Taiwan, a Final Round of Cupping and Teaware, Then Home At Last!

I arrived in Taipei with a rather serious sore throat and the beginnings of a cough. I was barely able to make it out of the terminal and was grateful to see my friend Mr. Chang, who supplies all of our teaware in Taiwan. He took me to the local pharmacy to get some cold medicine and I blacked out for the night. The next morning I had arranged for our Imperial Green Oolong samples to be delivered to Mr. Chang's office for cupping. Thankfully, in Taiwan as well as in China, I have friends to lean on. Knowing that I would not have time (or energy) to make it up to the tea farms, I asked my friend Mr. Liao to gather up samples from the three farms I do business with and deliver them to me in Taipei.

I woke up with a blinding headache and was secretly hoping no one would show up so I could sleep until I went to the airport. Luckily my friends know me too well. Mr. Liao showed up with the samples right at 9:00 AM and they called my hotel room to get me out of bed and over to the office by 9:30. We began to look at the latest teaware samples, go over orders I had placed, and record the changes I wanted. Some of the most exciting items are the floral gaiwans, which I asked to be remade with thinner porcelain bone china and improved floral prints. The samples reflected those changes and I hope to offer them for sale within a month or two. When we finally got to the tea my headache had gone away and I felt much better. We started cupping all of the samples available. The following is a list of the regions we sampled:

  • Shan Lin Xi (杉林溪)
  • Li Shan (梨山)
  • La La Shan (拉拉山)
  • Da Yu Ling (大禹岭)
  • Fu Shou Shan (福寿山)
  • Qi Lin Shan
  • Alishan (阿里山)

All are noted regions producing high-grown oolongs. I selected an 18-kilo batch from the famed Shan Lin Xi region. I find the tea to have full flavor and a nice finish. The texture is smooth with just the right touch of chewiness. The leaf appearance is dark green with a gentle sheen, an indication of good quality and good production methods. I was very happy with this tea; it beat selections from Li Shan and Fu Shou Shan. Oolongs from these areas generally demand high prices, but I was glad to find good value and quality without having to pay more. Mr. Liao rushed back to his factory in Nantou to sieve out the broken leaves, hand-remove any yellow leaves he could find, gently vacuum the tea into .5 kilo bags, and rush it back to me before I departed for the airport. I am not sure why people do all these favors for me but I am thankful always.

I am now at home, trying to fight off the flu and get over jet lag. The spring green oolongs will be offered for sale soon. If you're in San Francisco or Berkeley, give me a jingle and I'll try to meet you for tea!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ray,
How was the Taiwan oolong this year? I heard it was rather dry this year and was wondering what the impact on the tea was. Thanks.

Roy Fong said...

Dry weather can cause lower yields and less tips but it can still produce good flavors as I found in some of the tea samples I cupped while I was in Taiwan. The fact is, depending on varietal, soil management and over all conditional of the fields, the dryer weather affects poor soil conditions much more than well managed farms where nicely maintaned soil conditions retains moisture and nutrients for much longer.

Tearoy said...

mmmmm...spring oolong. Can't wait!!