After six consecutive years of attending the tea expo in Taiwan as a guest — participating in all kinds of cultural activities and meeting tea people from all over Taiwan, this year was a wholly different level of immersion. Being there full-time for the 9-day event in the role of on-site English interpreter brought the overall significance of the Nantou Global Tea Expo into perspective. Simply put, this event is an unprecedented representation of tea culture in the 21st Century.
To begin with, the image above portrays my personally (tea geek!) favorite event — the Champion Prize Winning Tea Tasting. For a nominal fee, participants are given a commemorative tea cup and get to taste 10 different first-place award winning teas from competitions held all over Taiwan. These teas are brewed and presented by professional tea judges who educate their guests on the types of teas represented by each regional competition. The hosts also explain the tea judging process and how these teas are rated. Within a 30-minute session, attendants get to experience ten of the most prestigious teas in the world, and the competitions that represent them. It really is a unique opportunity for amateurs and aficionados alike.
On the other end of the spectrum, yet no less significant really, are events such as the one shown above and below — the "Youth Talk Tea Competition". Here we can watch elementary school children put on a variety of performances related to their local tea culture. The time, energy and deep cultural knowledge that goes into these performances is truly impressive.
With their program guides in-hand, attendants of the expo stroll around the extensive event grounds to come upon ongoing exhibits such as Traditional Oolong Tea Making shown below. This exhibit was hosted by a father-and-son team whose family has won first prize in the Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Competition in the Yong Long Community in Lugu Township.
Right beside the tea making exhibit was the Tea And Music event, where guests could just show up and take a seat at the many tables arranged around a performance stage and partake in a tea session hosted by the Living Art Of Tea Club. Premium Dong Ding Oolong Tea was provided by the Lugu Farmers' Association and served by adept tea club members to anyone who cared to have a seat and enjoy the scene, accompanied by professional live musical performances.
Nearby, those needing a bit of rest and refreshment could receive a tea leaf facial treatment at the "Sixth Sense Tea Spa", where guests got to experience the health and beauty benefits to be had from freshly brewed tea leaves.
The photo below shows Taiwan's Vice President Wu Den-yih along the Nantou County Mayor Lin Ming Zhen and other prominent government officials partaking in this year's theme event 曲水流觴 which loosely translates as "Lyrical Flowing Water, Dancing Cups of Tea".
In the same Tea Culture Exhibit Hall as the event above were a number of local and international interactive demonstrations of tea culture. Below is calligraphy by event producer Tony Lin representing his hometown tradition of Dong Ding Oolong.
And here is Tony's wife Lisa Lin hosting a Dong Ding Oolong tea session for guests who could sign up on a daily basis for one of several sessions throughout the day. Participants bought tickets for a nominal fee and received a commemorative tea cup as a souvenir.
In addition to the local traditional Dong Ding Oolong exhibit, both Japanese and Korean tea cultures were represented.
Below is the Taiwanese Aboriginal Tea Culture Exhibit. A poignant shot here shows Tony Lin posing for a photo in this venue which represents a culture that is unique to Taiwan. For six years running, Tony has always been "behind the scenes", keeping the event production flowing smoothly, buy has shied away from the media attention in Taiwan.
The events don't stop here. There was also a Tea Culture Fashion Show representing neo-traditional women's and youth clothing by a local designer.
And my second favorite event must be noted in conclusion of this vast array of tea culture that is presented for public participation every year. This is the "1000 People Brewing Tea" event, where anyone can register to be a tea host and set up their own design of a tea picnic. Guests are then assigned a spot on a large field to sit and be served tea, and simply enjoy the gift of tea being embodied in an endless array of styles and personalities. This expo is an event that represents how pervasive and natural the tradition of tea is here in Taiwan. Tea culture is perhaps even more alive and well in the 21st Century than it has been since the ancient Chinese Dynasties.
All of the above are really just the highlights of an event that represents a living tea culture in Taiwan. The broad spectrum of activities and exhibits, not to mention hundreds of vendors selling their own tea and other local specialties is truly an anomaly. There is nowhere else on the planet that represents tea as a traditional product of regional origin in such a comprehensive and extravagant way. For anyone interested in experiencing the pinnacle of a tea cultural event, the Nantou County Global Tea Expo in Taiwan is a must destination.
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.