This past weekend was the Living Art of Tea Club's annual event at the Lugu Farmers' Association in Nantou, Taiwan. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this local tea club hosting formal tea parties. Each year, the event is held in a different season and with a different theme. This year's event was called 春山沐月 which means "Spring Mountains Bathed In Moonlight". The title refers to this time in early spring when tea farmers anticipate spring rains that will nourish the first crop of the year.
The event is formal in that it is by reservation only, and follows a set program. There are four sessions over two days, with 75 guests attending each, and the event is always sold out The atmosphere however is natural and serene with no prescribed etiquette. In a word, it embodies the Taiwanese Art of Tea.
This year, two types of local traditional Oolong teas were served. The first was a type of aged Red Oolong that was very close to Black Tea in that it was heavily oxidized and roasted just enough to preserve freshness, so no roasted flavor was evident. It was very balanced, mellow, and sweet, with a lingering fragrant aftertaste. The second tea was a Champion Prize winning tea from Yong Long Community Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition. This competition warrants a slightly heavier roast than the neighboring Lugu Farmers' Association. So this tea was an especially hearty brew with an amazingly complex aroma and aftertaste - a true joy to experience!
In commemoration of its 20th annual event, I was requested to recite a poem. Since I provided musical accompaniment to the debut event in 1995, I thought it only fitting to sing a song instead. Upon short notice, I managed to compose a piece that expressed my personal gratitude for my life in tea country. Here is the insert to the program of the lyrics:
As I sat at the table of my tea mentor Lisa Lin and took it all in, the familiar setting and pleasant atmosphere, and the faces of so many people that have become friends over the years, I couldn't help but feel blessed. Here is the current team of club members with the founders Tony and Lisa Lin in the center. Some more shots of the tea party follow.
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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.