Rebirth Of An Organic Tea Farm
Early on in my explorations of organic tea farming in Taiwan, I visited a farm that was introduced to me by a professor in the Agricultural Dept. at Chung Hsing National University in Taichung. I was impressed by the integrity of the older couple who managed and lived on the farm. I visited them a few times before the husband fell ill and they moved off the farm into town. I stopped by the farm once or twice in the following years, only to find it completely overgrown, and mourned the loss of a pioneering model of organic tea farming in Taiwan.
I then learned that within the last couple years, the son had decided to return to his family land and re-establish the farm that once existed. I had met Rocky Zhang once, years ago when he was studying pedology (soil science) at NTU –– Taiwan's leading university. Finally last month, through a mutual friend, we reconnected and I visited the farm for a field trip class, just as I did the first time years ago with professor Hwang.
The mutual friend was facilitating a 12-week course on organic farming, with a focus on tea. He had invited me to be a guest lecturer a couple weeks prior, and that is how I learned that the class would visit this farm. Given that the farm is only a 20 minute ride from where I now live, I decided to take this opportunity to visit the farm again. It was a meaningful and inspiring occasion for all.
After Rocky spoke about his experience and hard work that he had put into his family land to bring it back to its current state, he asked me to come up and add my element to the story. I was touched and honored to be able to contribute my experience of this local history in organic tea farming and show my support of the farmers who are committed to organic tea cultivation.
The farm is now moving into its third year of a newly planted crop, and is just beginning to yield a harvest. Rocky has a lot of work ahead of him, but we are all confident that he will succeed in his efforts with a new scientific approach to farming as well as a small but growing network of farmers to share their experience. I will be sure to keep in closer contact with Rocky and hopefully Eco-Cha will have a chance to share the tea from this farm that was brought back to life!
As I was leaving this soft-spoken man stopped me and told me that he had seen me on TV and knew about Eco-Cha, and just wanted to say that he was delighted to meet me. This really made me feel good. My 20 years of involvement in the industry here and the efforts to promote it through Eco-Cha are finally bearing fruit. I really was moved by this man's simple and kind words. With this encouragement, Eco-Cha is more inspired than ever to share this rich culture with tea lovers around the world!
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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.