Eco-Cha is featured on a Taiwan TV News station's lifestyle program called "Building Dreams For A New Taiwan" (築夢新台灣) broadcasting tonight. When the station called to notify us of the broadcast, I was prompted to go back and take a look at the behind-the-scenes snapshots I took during the shoot. I discovered that they captured a personal story that I'm inspired to share.
I took the film crew to my friend A-bao's tea factory to see how Oolong Tea is made. After some Q&A at the factory with the TV crew, he invited us to his home for tea. What I didn't know at the time was that my friend had his own little hidden agenda.
Earlier in the year, I had the somewhat quirky notion to return a gift that A-bao had given me on our first meeting 20 years ago. In the spring of 1997, I sat as a guest at the table where he brewed tea for an event hosted by the Living Art of Tea Club at the Lugu Farmers' Association. Forgetting my manners in the local culture, I told him that I thought his teapot was really nice, and that I hadn't seen one like it before. I now well know that, in traditional Chinese culture, if a guest specifically compliments an item, it is very likely that the host will insist they take it.
So with some awkwardness, I accepted the gift and brought it back to the USA, where it remained until I decided to bring it back to Taiwan with me from my visit home last year. As a gesture of appreciation for A-bao's friendship, I brought the teapot to his house this past spring and expressed my wish that he allow me to return it to its original home. Being the kind and amiable person that he is, he accepted — for the time-being at least. In preparing and planning for the film shoot, A-bao evidently had the idea to use this opportunity to give the tea pot back to me! He felt it was a real story for them to capture. How could I disagree?
Along with his personal agenda, A-bao also had a professional one in mind. He thoughtfully prepared a simple presentation of tea leaves at 3 different stages of processing. The plate on the right shows tea leaves at the end first day of processing after they are picked. These leaves have undergone the withering, oxidation, tumble heating, and primary drying phase. The plate in the middle shows the leaves after they have been half-way through the rolling and drying phase on the second day. On left are leaves that have completed the Oolong Tea making process, tightly rolled and fully dried.
A-bao also demonstrated how the leaves were properly processed by showing us the uniformity in the shape, thickness, and coloration of the leaf stems — indicating an even depletion of moisture throughout the multi-phased, complex procedure. This is a primary point of observation in observing the quality of the processing methods.
So along with the professional tea tour that I had arranged with A-bao, there was an unexpected personal story for the TV crew to capture. Honestly, I was initially opposed to publicizing this very personal element of our friendship. But with A-bao's encouragement and serene way of expressing his perspective, I could only acquiesce. So now this gift that has represented a life-long personal connection as well a meaningful cultural exchange is back where its owner wishes it to be — in my humble abode that is rich with friendship.
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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.