Thursday, May 28, 2015

Da Yu Ling, sorrow and joy

The locations of Oolong plantations on Taiwan's highest tea mountain, Da Yu Ling, are known by the number of kilometers on the Road #8. Here, for example, we have the sign for the 103 K(ilometer) mark. And I remember clearly taking some wonderful shots of the nearby plantation some 4 years ago very early in the morning.
I shall never forget the density and luminosity of the morning blue sky. It felt like NYC! Big tea bushes, tall white trees. Everything feels bigger, brighter and more energetic in Da Yu Ling!

This week, I drove back to 103K with all these memories in my head.
The sky was still blue, but the tea trees are gone,
they are gone, uprooted. (Partis, disparus, y'a plus!)
The leases on these lands expired and the government took them back. The primary reason for this action is to prevent erosion. That's why trees have been planted instead.
This didn't come as a surprise. I had received a warning by tea farmers in Alishan. They told me that Da Yu Ling plantations are being closed and that this impacts the volume (less) and price (higher) of Oolong from this famous tea mountain. I had to see it by myself to really believe somebody would do such a thing. It's a very strange experience: my brain kept on bringing up images of the majestic tea bushes in my mind, but I couldn't match them with what my eyes were seeing.
This uprooting of tea trees isn't just limited to the 103K location. It also took place at 104K.
And around 101K we can also see the uprooted lines of trees from a distance:
The good news is there are still a few remaining plantations on Da Yu Ling. There, the leases have not expired, yet, or they are outside the area to protect.

The access to these high plantations remains very difficult and tiring. So, to get to the one near 100K, you need to use a little train on a monorail!
Who wants a ride?

The view from a Da Yu Ling Oolong plantation is magnificent and not something you forget easily!
How long can we still enjoy Oolong from Da Yu Ling? Who knows? So let's drink it while we still have the opportunity! That's why, this spring, I selected 3 different lots from Da Yu Ling:

These are the leaves from the 100K plantation.

Cultivar: qingxin (ruanzhi) Oolong
Harvested by hand on May 12th, 2015.
Elevation: 2500 meters!

The color theme for my Chaxi is sky blue! The leaves touch the sky and we're almost in heaven! This is how it feels hiking in the plantation and how it should feel drinking this tea.

As you can see, I don't use many leaves, but I do use my silver teapot, which helps get more out of the leaves (thanks to its heat conductivity).
The cups are my light celadon singing cups. Today, I'm using the big model. 3 cups are a good fit for the 20 cl teapot.
 The tea feels pure, energetic, sweet...
 Simply perfect.
 The fine energy of spring on Da Yu Ling.
So good that cups are emptied before I have time to take my shot!
Perfect score for this 100K!


greg lafosse said...

Merci pour cet article plein de fraîcheur !
Cependant je n'ai pas bien saisit la raison pour laquelle ces joyaux ont été déracinés.

Stephane said...

Les théiers ont des racines moins profondes que des grands arbres. A ce titre, les théiers ne stabilisent pas tellement la terre en montagne et il y a des risques d'éboulement en cas de fortes pluies. Je dois dire que je ne suis pas convaincu non plus. L'autre argument, c'est qu'on est dans une montagne qui fait parti d'un parc public et que cela faisait désordre d'avoir des paysans privés y exploiter des lopins de terre. Surtout quand cela conduit à beaucoup de succès pour les rares fermiers qui ont le bail de ces terres.
Aussi, je crois que les causes de ces arrachages sont multiples.

Israel said...

Hi Stephane,

Could you say anything more about erosion on the island and whether you think the government is legitimately concerned about the impacts of tea farming? It is sad to see those plants torn out and sadder yet to contemplate the extinction of Da Yu Ling oolong. But I remember on our visit to Shan Lin Shi learning about the government campaign to replace tea with trees that have deeper roots and thus retain soil more effectively. Is there anything to that?

Thank you,

greg lafosse said...

Merci pour votre réponse. Néanmoins je trouve les justifications très légère quand à la pertes de tel trésor. Cela me fait me sentir triste, ce genre de patrimoine demande tellement d'investissement et de travail... je plein les agriculteurs qui en sont victimes.

Stephane said...

Hi Israel,
Mountain roads have to be repaired regularly because of mudslides and fallen rocks after heavy rainfalls. Erosion is a real concern in all the mountains, not just where there's tea. But the solution is probably not to ban all tea plantations (on public land) in the mountains. The key would be to allow such plantations in a sustainable and responsible manner. What makes the particular charm of Da Yu Ling plantations is that they were isolated and separated from one another. It felt much, much less crowded and concentrated than on Lishan.

Sugar Lilie said...

Hello Stephane,

I'm looking for information on plantations, and came across your blog. It's very informative. Thank you. I've heard about the deforestation, but this is the first time I've seen before/after images. It's heartbreaking.
On a positive note, I look forward to my first trip to Taiwan (provided I can find guides, etc) this Spring, and look forward to enjoying the varietals of Oolong tea.