Dong Ding Oolong Tea Country is the biggest hub of Taiwan tea culture. Soon after the KMT took control of Taiwan, the area on and around Dong Ding Mountain was determined to be the best location to develop tea cultivation. The above photo from 1953 documents this early development of the modern tea industry.
The photos in this post are from an article we translated from Chinese for the Lugu Farmers' Association. Here is an excerpt that explains some of its history:
The most well-known story of how the cultivation of Dong Ding Tea began is about Lin Feng Zhi — a local resident of Lugu, who traveled to mainland China for official government examinations in 1855. He reciprocated the donations made by his neighbors to fund his travels by returning with 36 tea plants from the famous Wu Yi Mountain. Twelve of these plants survived and are widely accepted to be the “ancestors of Dong Ding Tea”.
When people hear of the name Dong Ding, which means “frozen peak” in Chinese, they imagine snow-capped mountains. The place name has wholly different origins, however. The settlers of this land referred to climbing the steep slopes of this mountain as “grasping the peak”. Which, in the local dialect sounds like “frozen peak” in Mandarin. So it is from this linguistic pun of sorts that the name is derived.
The photo above shows solar withering as it was still done in the 1960's. This looks like it was a scheduled event by the local press, as everyone is dressed in their Sunday best to make tea! But it does reveal the minimal quantity and labor intensive processing methods of pre-mechanized Oolong Tea making.
The photo above shows a tea harvest on Dong Ding Mountain in the 1980's, when its development was nearing its peak. By the early 1990's, High Mountain Tea became the new craze, and Dong Ding Oolong began to be referred as "old people's tea". Fortunately, the Lugu Farmer's Association successfully preserved the tradition and promoted the modern production of Dong Ding Oolong by developing what is now the world's largest and most prestigious Oolong Tea competition.
Shown above is the second tea factory we visited in Lugu. Although this photo was taken in 2014, our first visit was in 1995. Our first first tea factory experience was in the home of our mentors Tony and Lisa Lin in 1993. Mr. Chen (above) is Tony's cousin, working side by side through the night with his wife. We've learned a lot about the local tradition from both of these couples. They are our primary tea teachers.
We met Mr. Su about ten years ago. He is a pioneer of the modern tea industry in Lugu. What was once his home factory is now just his roasting room and warehouse. It's equivalent to a temple in our eyes. Mr. Su is now well into his 80's, but he is still active and continues to roast tea in his own masterful way. His son mostly produces standard High Mountain Tea, so we have become acquainted with his nephew in recent years, who is dedicated to carrying on the local tradition.
We were inspired to share some local history along with our personal background to complement the simple, short clip below of our recent tea run to our source of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. After all, our mission is to not only share the world class specialty of Taiwan Tea, but also the world we have come to call our home!
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