Aqing is 70 years young. She lives in a small village 800 meters above sea level and wakes up everyday at 4am to help her husband tend to their chickens and fresh vegetables. Four times a year, for ten days at a time, she meets up with the same friends she has had for 50 years to pick tea from the local farms.
On sunny days only, they gather at the tea plantation around 7am to eat breakfast together and catch up on local gossip. The conditions for picking the tea have to be perfect. Once the bright sun has dried off the morning dew around 10am, they go to the field and, for the next 6 to 8 hours, they pick tea leaves.
Each tea stem has to be individually picked at exactly the right spot. The stem would have two or three young leaves on them. They are then placed in a bag to be sorted later. It is arduous work and there are no young people in the field. This is probably the last generation of 採茶女工，roughly translated as The Ladies Who Pick The Tea.
At Taihoku tea we have endeavoured to preserve as much of the tea that has been processed in this traditional way. We choose our tea seasonally from one farm at a time. They are as single batch teas. Each season we have a limited supply but our enthusiasm and confidence will always make sure there will be more in the next season.
Choosing the tea from the right farm, roasting the ones we want to age and selecting the finest leaves for different levels of roasting for our green, black and oolong teas. Making fine tea, we have humbly learned, is an art, a science, and of course, as with anything related to weather, a large dose of good luck. We always reserve a batch to roast for aging purposes. This becomes our aged teas.
Tea is not wine, there are no reliable terroirs per se. Each year, each season, it is the weather that chooses the farm with the best harvest. As most farms are quite small, selecting that farm and making sure you can have access to the harvest is a crucial part of the process. It is not easy to create seduction in a cup!!!
Aside from experts who pick the tea by hand like Aqing, only a handful of expert roasters are still working, and few young people in Taiwan are interested in carrying on this tradition. At Taihoku tea we have prepared for this eventuality. One of our founders, Annie, has been studying under a master roaster for several years until his final retirement earlier this year.
Drinking tea however is a very personal journey. Whether you enjoy a strong English breakfast tea with milk or lemon, a Moroccan mint tea, or a refreshing and highly fragrant Oolong, the choice of steeping time and tea to water ratio will be entirely yours to experiment with and choose.
At Taihoku Tea our selections are typically harvested in the spring and summer months and thus, we only have a limited supply every season. Our delicious flavored teas: Jasmine and Osmanthus for example will only be available starting in May of every year when the flowers are in full bloom. We can only make these on a limited scale as the high quality organic flowers we use are also very dependent on the weather.
The jungles, forest and flatlands of Taiwan are home to many species of plants and animals. As an active member of the local conservation community, we will donate a portion of our profits to contribute to the heroic efforts on behalf of the Leopard Cat in Taiwan.
Tea up to good health!
The Taihoku Tea Team