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Taiwan Tea Sourcing

By August 25, 2014 Blog 11 Comments
Oriental Beauty Tea Farmer

In July we went on an amazing trip to Taiwan. Our mission was to source some exceptional Taiwanese tea for Man Cha’s first tea range. The trip also gave us a good opportunity to revisit tea friends and to further our (Guānxì关系) relationship with tea farmers. We were greeted with temperatures of 40degrees and 90% humidity. Great for growing tea plants but not so good for personal hygiene! Reaching some remote tea farms was physically challenging but our spirits were kept alive with the goal to find the best quality tea available.

Tea master Cheung

We visited Master Chang who is quite an authority on Taiwanese tea, in particular, Tieguanyin (Iron Buddha tea). He deserves this respect, since his grandfather was the first person to bring the Tieguanyin cultivar from its origin in Southern Fujian, China to Taiwan in 1895. From our childhood we’ve always known Tieguanyin to be a tightly bound tea, which exudes bouquet accents and a sweet after taste. Unfortunately the craft of making this tea is now being super seeded by the less labour intensive styles found in most tea shops. Luckily for us, Master Cheng still upholds traditional and the much more labour intensive way of making charcoaled Tieguanyin. We had the pleasure of tasting some of his amazing teas, which brought us back to our past. The most famous tea in Taiwan is Oolong tea. From the high mountains of Alishan and Dong Ding to the vast fields of Yilan. There is plethora of Oolongs to choose from and we chose one that wasn’t too green or strong but rich, buttery and unctuous. We hope you will like it as much as we do. This tea will taste great brewed hot or cold and this diversity also helped sway our decision to offer it to you.

Tea field

Another tea we were sourcing was the highly prized Oriental Beauty. It left such an impression on us when we last encountered her, that it was compulsory to source some for our first tea range. We visited several farmers and ultimately decided to purchase from one particular farmer, because we believed in his practices of making small batched and exceptional Oriental Beauty. Unlike many other farmers, we know first hand that he does not use artificial fertilizer and of course no pesticides. If he used pesticides then the tea leaf eating jaccids would never eat his tea and thus the natural sweetness of his Oriental Beauty would not be so prominent.

Fresh Tea leaves in hand

We visited his farm where his youngest son showed us the difficult process of making Oriental Beauty. We gained a valuable insight into Taiwan tea culture aided with the pleasure of knowing that the fine craft of making quality Oriental Beauty is kept alive. It really touched us to see his sons have the same dedication for tea and we felt proud that the tradition can continue for another generation. Some of their “grand cru” teas sell for thousands of dollars but this family are so humble and all they want is for you to understand why they have dedicated their lives to tea. We were both touched by their generosity and inspired by their dedication. Although this tea is extremely expensive compared to other Taiwanese teas, by seeing it made first hand and understanding the difficulty in making it, every sweet drop of tea is justified. We just hope that our customers would agree with us.

Tea dryers

So loaded with Oriental Beauty and Oolong tea we returned to Hong Kong ready to package our tea and prepare for Man Cha’s first debut at Hackney’s Markets! It’s such a mad rush trying to pack and get everything ready for London, however it’s the best learning experience for our company so far. We’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for all the love and support from family and tea friends this past year.

Hope you can experience a well travelled cup of MAN CHA TEA!

Sleeping Cat

 

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