About the Partners
Pinlin District, New Taipei City
Pinlin District has been known for the best Baozhong Tea for centuries. Many Pinlin District tea farmer families have grown and made teas for more than 100 years. The Chen family is one of them. The owner, Chen Shi Yi, is the 4th generation. He learned how to grow teas and make teas from his father and grandfather. Making organic teas never came into his mind until an accident had happened. 10 years ago, a regular sunny day, he found his neighbor, another tea farmer, fainted in the tea farm from breathing in too much pesticide. He carried the tea farmer to a hospital, and saved his life in time. After, he was shocked by how the dangerous pesticide could be to the human body. He started to consider natural farming. Once he made the decision, he planned to transform his entire tea farm into a completely organic farm.
Not everything went smooth in the beginning. Without pesticide, bugs swept away the entire tea farm, and there was almost nothing left. The weeds were also sprawling all over the farm. Mr. Chen and his family had to spend whole days pulling up the weeds and catching the bugs, but the harvest was still low. Mr. Chen looked for help from other tea farmers who have gone through the same process. He worked with them and became a member of the organic farming group to exchange knowledge and experience.
The help he obtained was not only from the like-minded people, but also from nature. Natural predators started to thrive in his tea farm, and helped to control pests. It would eventually reach a balance in the ecosystem. The increase of insect also made the tea trees develop their own self-defense system. The trees delivered more nutrition to the leaves, and then the trees became more leafy and thick. The right balance of insects, surprisingly, makes the tea trees stronger!
After 10 years of hard work, Mr. Chen’s teas have earned the Tse-Xin Organic Mark, which adopts the strictest organic farming standard. Every two years, the farm soil and the teas have to be examined. He also has to have a health examination to make sure the tea is produced by a healthy tea maker.
Compared to 10 years ago, he is much healthier and happier now. He is going to devote the whole rest of his life to promoting organic farming. “Even if I no long exist,” he said, “my children, my grandchildren, and generations to come will still do the same thing that I am doing now.” It is not easy, but simply the right thing to do.
Featured teas: Bao Zhong Tea, Oriental Beauty, Taiwanese Green Tea
Muzha area, Wenshan district, Taipei City
Muzha area developed the earliest commercialized tea farms and the largest tea growing area during the early 1900’s in Taiwan. Two well-known Taiwanese Teas, Muzha Tie Guan Yin and Four Season Spring, were first produced in this area.
Muzha Tie Guan Yin originated from Anxi County, China. The tea-master Zhang Nai Miao, the first generation of the Zhang family, first brought the Tie Guan Yin tea strain to Taiwan to be grown in the Mucha area in the 1890’s. Since then, the Tie Guan Yin strain has spread to other areas of Taiwan. However, because traditional processing procedure of Tie Guan Yin is time-consuming and requires complicated skills, Mr. Zhang’s tea farm is the only tea farm to still produce this traditional Tie Guan Yin, called Zheng Cong Tie Guan Yin, meaning the real Tie Guan Yin in Taiwanese.
The current tea farm owner, Zhang Xin Zhong is the 4th generation of the Zhang family. As the first son of a famous tea master’s family, Mr. Zhang continues the heritage of his family. He has been involved in the tea-making process from a very early age. He has learned all of the knowledge he needed to make Traditional Tie Guan Yin. He believes that the Traditional Tie Guan Yin is not only the family heirloom, but also a part of the Taiwanese tea culture and history.
The Four Seasons Spring also makes the Zhang family a true legend in the Muzha area. The Four Seasons Spring means a tree strain, and a tea made from this tree strain. It was found in the Zhang family’s farm about 30 years ago by Zhang Wen Hui, Mr. Zhang’s father. This beautiful accident has changed the whole Taiwanese tea market. Unlike other tree strains, the Four Seasons Spring can be harvest 6-7 times yearly. The Four Seasons Spring tea fills a gap of early spring and late winter, when most tea trees haven’t had enough tea leaves to make teas. Now, The Four Seasons Spring can be found in many areas of Taiwan. However, in Muzha, people call the tree strain as “Hui’s strain” to remember the discoverer.
Visiting Mr. Zhang’s farm, you will notice the tea trees are in picturesque disorder. The Tie Guan Yin trees are lower, less leafy and grow horizontally. On the contrary, the Four Seasons Spring trees are taller, more bushy and thick. Mr. Zhang takes care of these trees like his own babies. As a tea lover, you will feel like becoming a part of Taiwanese tea history after having a sip of his wonderful teas!
Featured teas: Traditional (Zheng Cong) Tie Guan Yin, Tie Guan Yin Black Tea
Wuhe Tableland, Ruisui Village, Hualien County
Before the Ye family moved to the Wuhe Tableland, Hualien County, they had grown teas for generations. In the 1970’s, there was no commercialized tea farms in Hualien County. Attracted by government subvention, Ye Fa Shan, a third generation tea farmer, decided to go east for new opportunities.
The difficulty of being a pioneer in a frontier area exceeded his expectation. Though he had the skills and knowledge, Mr. Ye found it was almost impossible to duplicate anything he was familiar with. He had to carve out the farm from scratch. After trying numerous tea strains, Mr. Ye built his own tea farm step by step, and became the earliest commercialized tea farm in the east of Taiwan.
Once the first tea farm was built, many other local farmers started to grow teas. Before long, the Wuhe Tableland became so popular, and the teas were in such high demand that the tea farmers began to compete fiercely on price. With the cut-throat competition growing worse, tea farmers used chemical pesticides and herbicides irrationally to increase their production and reduce the cost. These noxious substances would cause serious damage to tea trees and the land. The residue of the chemicals would also harm humans. After visiting other organic farms, Mr. Ye decided to practice organic farming on his farms.
In 1998, Mr. Ye started his organic farming experience. After two years preparing and experiment, Mr. Ye chose the Dah Yeh Oolong to build his organic tea farm. Dah Yeh Oolong is stronger than other tea strains, but the harvest was still dispiriting. Mr. Ye tried different ecological control methods. He followed the “less is more” philosophy, and avoid any man-made interference. Eventually, the environment will reach its perfect balance.
In 2001, Mr. Ye’s farm earned the MOA Organic Mark, becoming the first organic tea farm in the east of Taiwan. To preserve the soil fertility, Mr. Ye only harvests twice a year, spring and winter. Between harvest seasons, Mr. Ye manages his farm with minimum interference, and has developed great biodiversity in his farm. If you visit his farm, you will not see organized, well-trimmed tea trees, but encounter a beautiful garden!
Featured teas: Jin Xuan Tea
Yuchi Village, Nantou County (Sun Moon Lake area)
I met this farmer, Peng Mu Sheng, via one of my friends. He is a very passionate and fluent conversationalist. Our first meeting was on the phone. He is a very energetic person, and I am surprised that he is almost 70 years old, with almost 40 years of experience in growing and making teas.
His tea farm is one of the oldest farms in the Sun Moon Lake area, Nentou County. During the 1980’s, many Vietnamese teas were being imported into the Taiwanese tea market. Low-priced Vietnamese teas crushed the Taiwanese tea market. Many tea farmers in this area chopped down their tea trees, and switched to betel nut trees for higher profit. He never thought about giving up his tea farms. Instead, He started natural farming, grew better tea trees, and made high quality teas to distinguish himself from other low-priced and low quality teas.
Mr. Peng never uses pesticide on his tea farm. He believes that the natural farming will grow stronger tea trees, and make better quality teas. In bad seasons, he chooses to let the land lie fallow. Unlike other farmers, he refuses to use chemical fertilizer to maintain the amount of production. The chemical will not only destroy the natural sweetness and smell, but also diminish the nutrition and health benefits of the final product.
Eventually, his diligent efforts have been recognized and rewarded. His teas have been ranked as one of the top 100 Taiwanese agricultural products. He also won champion in the International Black Tea Competition. He joked that the aged Assam Black Tea, which is very rare and expensive now, was unwanted inventory before and left intact for decades.
He, sometimes, asks himself why he perseveres with natural farming unremittingly. The smile on people’s faces when they drink a simple, but good cup of tea is the answer.
Featured teas: Taiwan No. 18 Black Tea