We took a day on our recent trip to Taiwan to revisit the farmer who makes one of our most popular teas in our Falmouth teahouse. Mr. Wang owns one of the few remaining old tree plantations from the days of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. More and more these days the farmers here are digging up their old trees to plant more profitable new hybrid strains such as Taiwan's No.18 or No.8 cultivars. Those that don't, increase their profits from the land by planting Betel nut trees amongst their tea plantation and fertilise heavily to meet these new demands on the soil. Mr. Wang's old trees were planted by the Japanese from seeds imported from Assam. The trees are spaced naturally and grown without presticides or chemical fertilisers. The flavour is deep and full a hint of the astringency present in Assam teas. Grown in Taiwan, these teas take on more honey rich tones and are much more refined than Assam teas tend to be.
Mr. Wang is semi-retired, originally making tea for family and friends and now selling the small quantities he has to a few tea shops. He grows his teas without the use of fertilisers and pesticides and is currently engaged in the process of buying the strips of land on each side of his tea plantation to prevent his neighbour's use of fertilisers encroaching on his tea plantation.
This year he has taken over his brother's land and as a result of the larger quantity of tea, has switched from handprocessing to commissioning Sun Moon Lake Antique Assam Tea Factory to produce their teas in the manner used since the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. This factory was built by the Japanese and still uses much of the same machinery and has many of the original features. There's even Tatami mat rooms upstairs for the executives to drink tea.
Stages in processing for Sun Moon Lake Red Tea
1. Withering 2. Rolling 3. Separating 4. Oxidation 5. Drying
We'll have the 2011 Spring harvest of this tea available on our website soon.
The flavour is excellent with enough character to prevent it falling into that bland sweetness often found in hongcha