Thursday, December 01, 2011

Talking about the weather

Nowadays, people talk about the weather when there's nothing else to talk about. The words mean less than the attitude, tone people say them. But for a tea farmer, the weather is of paramount importance. Cold or hot, dry or rainy, these factors will have a huge impact on the timing and quality of his harvest.

This winter, in northern Taiwan, the weather is the last subject any farmer wants to talk about. But there is no way to avoid it. This winter harvest season, the Wenshan area saw record rainfalls. And despite the best processing techniques, additional roasting... all winter samples I tasted were lacking something. (And many leaves were not harvested at all!) 

Farmers remain at the mercy of the weather, while tea drinkers have the flexibility to go and buy elsewhere. But it did not feel right to abandon my trusted friend in this difficult time. So, I restocked some of his remaining spring 2011 'subtropical forest' Baozhong, a similar batch, harvested on May 5th. (It was so much better than the winter version ; time actually seems to have opened up its aromas). I also liked his Top Qizhong Oolong (similar to this one), roasted 5 times this September, using spring 2008 top quality leaves). 

And finally, I also bought this lightly oxidized, flowery, organic Baozhong (made with luanze/qingxin Oolong). It was harvested on November 23, 2011, between the winter and the Dong Pian season, after the rain had stopped. Its character is light, sweet with a fine, zesty aftertaste. The leaves are big and still include stems. The brew doesn't have a good transparency (rain), but the soft and fresh taste should please all those who like their Baozhong unroasted. 


Steph said...

You know, it would be interesting to do a "CSA" with a farm..stick with a farm through good and bad, like you're doing here!

Alex Zorach said...

It's funny, people use weather as an example of a frivolous or small-talk subject but I find it quite deep, as well as quite practical. It's something universal, as everyone experiences it together, and it affects everyone, so talking about it can build solidarity by focusing on common ground.

This year the weather has seemed very irregular in the U.S. Personally, I am concerned. I'm concerned about global climate destabilization, and I wish people would do more things both to help stabilize the climate locally and globally.

There are simple things that can be done. For example, the past few years have seen devastating flooding in many parts of the world. Much of this damage is completely preventable. I wrote a page on flood prevention on another website I run, and I am hoping people will read and share it and use it to influence policy and behaviors.

I also have been encouraging people to think about tax policy and tax reform. I don't know as much about the tax code in other countries, but in the U.S., most of the taxes are production-based, i.e. income tax and sales tax both tax productive, wealth-creating activities. Consumption-based or use-based taxes, such as the gas tax, are rarer and are lower, much lower than in other regions such as Europe. I think this is absolutely terrible for the environment and terrible for reducing the carbon dioxide output of the U.S., not to mention bad for the U.S. economy because it keeps us dependent on foreign oil while taxing wealth-creating activities like working and earning income through a business.

I know this is off-topic but in the end, I feel like these are the things that matter to me. Sometimes, when they pop into my head, I feel the need to share them. I also think many of them are relevant to tea, if only because tea is a form of agriculture.

For example, some tea gardens, like Makaibari estate in Darjeeling, leave a large portion of their land area as intact ecosystem. If all agriculture did this, our climate would be highly protected and stabilized. But even "eco-friendly" countries like New Zealand aren't close to doing this. Look at an Aerial photo of New Zealand and you'll see miles and miles of agriculture with little intact ecosystem, the only areas set aside in special nature reserves.

This is not good. And I want to do something about it. But anyway, that's enough of my off-topic rambling. I do really think that the weather though is a very deep topic.