Last Sunday, he drove us in his 4WD vehicle to his 800m elevation plot of land surrounded by forest where he built a rudimentary house within meters of a stream swiftly flowing through a small gorge at the edge of his property. He has been through a lot in his career as a high elevation tea and fruit farmer, and now at the age of 60, Mr. LIn is on a new mission to cultivate Organic Dong Ding Oolong Tea on an isolated mountain plot of land he inherited from his father. He has mostly removed the persimmon orchard that was being eaten by monkeys and planted Qing Xin Oolong saplings 2 years ago. They are just growing into maturity now.
Mr. Lin has been inspired by his childhood classmate who is an unprecedented pioneer of sustainable organic tea farming in Taiwan. He has been convinced, after decades of professional farming experience, that this is the way to go. And in the next several months, he will begin to harvest from his most recent efforts.
After visiting his relatively remote new farm surrounded by bamboo groves and jungle, where he plans to retire, we went back through Central Lugu and up the north side of the valley to Phoenix Village, where he manages a much older plot of tea owned by his in-laws. For the last two years, he has not used any chemical products on this plot of tea that was originally planted almost 30 years ago. The new growth of leaves was just inspected and showed zero trace chemical residue.
He has used only natural fertilizers and pesticides and has reaped at least half the yield of conventional farms, even while these mature tea plants are in transition to being organic. This is an impressive feat in comparison to other farms who simply stop administering chemical pesticides without the use of natural ones. Allowing weeds to grow naturally and trimming them back manually has made this plot of tea stand in stark contrast to those where weed killers are administered.
Here is an example of a neighboring plot of tea that is cultivated with the use of chemical products:
The impact on the soil and the ecology of the plants' immediate environment is noticeably different. We seek out tea gardens like his that practice sustainable cultivation in place of conventional standards of the previous generation. In addition to his farming efforts, he is in the process of buying second hand tea processing machinery from factories that have been out of use to establish his own organic tea processing facility. By doing so, he is reusing not only the land that he has inherited the stewardship of, but also the equipment that has been abandoned by small local farmers in the wake of large scale remote factories at higher elevations. We find his efforts to be highly admirable. Here are some shots of his newly acquired second hand machinery that will allow him to produce organically grown traditional artisan oolong harvested from family inherited land and processed in his own private factory run by himself.
Of course this factory is just being built, so these machines will be sanitized and prepared for the remaining harvests of this year. We will document the further progress of this endeavor including the upcoming harvests as they happen.
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.