Wednesday, March 16, 2016

San Hsia tea plantation

The site was already a tea plantation during the Japanese occupation in the 1920s. The company was Mitsui & Co and it produced mostly red (fully oxidized) tea. Now belongs it belongs to the Taiwan Tea Corporation and it serves as a getaway from Taipei City. It's especially beautiful in spring (see also their astonishing pictures under snow from this January).
While there are still a few 90 years old tea trees from the Japanese era, the plantation has been replanted with qingxin ganzhong and with jinxuan tea trees.

And it's on this row of jinxuan tea bushes that we can find the first buds starting to grow! All the other trees seem to still be sleeping...

The farmer expects that they will only start to harvest at the end of March/early April, because this winter has been pretty cool in Taiwan. And they'll probablystart at this spot, the first where fresh leaves are growing.
A visit to a tea plantation is always interesting and often thrilling because you're surrounded by nature and tea. Seeing how tea is grown and made gives you an appreciation for all the effort that is put to make this delicious beverage. Tea is particularly sensitive to its environment. It picks up the surrounding scents and even the energy from the soil and the sun. That's why drinking a tea from a particular mountain often reminds me of the walks I took on that mountain. With a cup of tea, you are transported to the plantation.
This is probably one of the reason that we, tea drinkers, are drawn to visit these plantations and understand how the tea is done. It's a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoy each of these trips. However, there are 2 pitfalls that I should mention about visits to tea plantations. First, there's the problem of being too happy! It's difficult to keep a cool head about what you're tasting! It starts with the high elevation that lowers the boiling point. There's also the local spring water that tastes so fresh and sweet. This makes tasting and selecting tea much more difficult than if you were doing this at home, without the pressure of the friendly farmer looking at you.

The second pitfall is a misunderstanding about what you can learn on a tea plantation. There's lot one can learn there, but brewing technique is probably very last on the list. (And if you are selecting teas, you should brewing competition style anyway)  If you want to learn how to cook a steak, you don't go to a ranch/farm, but you learn from a chef, a cook, don't you?
Each cup of tea should feel like a walk on its tea plantation.

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