Taiwan's Nantou Global Tea Expo 2016
Nantou County's seventh annual Global Tea Expo happened last week, with TV news reporting that the event drew around 400,000 visitors over its 9 days of various performances, presentations, demonstrations, and contests to complement the 300 vendors who set up shop to sell their produce. It is by far the largest and most representative event in Taiwan promoting its specialty tea and thriving tea culture.
Above is the 1000 People Tea Party which has been a main attraction at the Expo since the first year. We see this as representing the lifestyle orientation that Taiwan's tea culture embodies. The cultural significance of tea and the way it enriches our lives is well understood here in Taiwan, and people really appreciate the community spirit on which this event is based. Eco-Cha's sourcing director Andy has brewed tea at this gathering every year since the Expo began.
The 1000 People Rolling Tea is the second most popular attraction, where folks both young and old can sign up for a DIY experience of rolling fresh tea leaves — an essential step in the making of Black Tea.
We are always eager to attend the event below to taste Taiwan's highest quality teas as determined by the regional competitions. Professional tea judges guide their guests through a tasting of 12 Champion Prize winning teas, with an introduction to each tea type and the competition they entered. Some of these prize winning teas sell for as much as US$10,000/600g!
Below is a snapshot of our friend and source of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea hosting an interactive demonstration of the premodern method of curing tea. He, and all of our older generation tea farmer friends grew up with this activity.
Another fun and rejuvenating activity at the Expo is the tea leaf facial treatment. Brewed tea leaves are placed over the eyes and the tea is absorbed by a facial mask to cleanse and condition the skin. This is something we've enjoyed doing at home for decades now, and know how refreshing the effect can be. If you try it, be sure to let the tea leaves cool down enough before facial application!
And finally, we want to share a snapshot of the core group of producers and facilitators who make this event run smoothly and successfully year after year. Andy took this shot in the very last moments of the staff packing up to leave the venue on the last day. The energy of the group was full of positivity, and we admire our mentor Tony Lin all-the-more for being the man behind the scenes who facilitates it all.
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.