Taiwan's Living Art Of Tea Club （生活茶會）
The Lugu Farmers' Association conducted its course in Tea Art this month, and subsequently celebrated its 25th anniversary of doing so! The purpose of this educational program has been to provide local residents with an aesthetic understanding of tea art and culture. It is meant to provide a foundation that participants can innovate upon and develop their own embodiment of Tea Art. After attending both practical and theoretical classes, participants take a written exam and do a tea brewing demonstration of their own design in order to receive the Tea Art Award.
Since Eco-Cha's sourcing director Andy first met his tea mentor Lisa Lin in 1993, he's continued to be impressed by and admire her eloquence and skill in creating displays that reflect themes of nature and simple beauty that express her own aesthetic experience with tea. Like the above display, the lotus branch that has flowered and gone to seed represents the season we are in and the cycles of nature. She has always had an amazing variety of potted plants in her "garden workshop" in the back yard, where she follows the inspiration she gets from the plants she cultivates and displays she creates with them. Below Lisa is offering some of her collection to participants in this year's course to create their own 茶席, or Tea Display. In guiding the class, she encourages them to trust their own sense of beauty and to create a display that reflects their personal experience of Tea Art.
The practical demonstration is conducted with four students brewing tea at a time. Tea professionals from varying lines of work act as judges who assess their visual display, their gracefulness in brewing tea, and the tea that they are served. All of these aspects must represent a level of skill and understanding that earns the Tea Art Award from the Living Art Of Tea Club.
The Living Art Of Tea Club now boasts over 400 members total, who participate in various public events such as the Nantou Global Tea Expo as well as their self-produced formal tea party held once a year at the Lugu Farmers' Association. Andy has had the privilege of attending this event since the first tea party was held in 1995, where he provided musical accompaniment — as he did on the 20th anniversary event last year, when he composed an performed a song for the occasion. In addition to producing and hosting Tea Art events in varying capacities, the club also runs an educational outreach program in Lugu Township's Elementary Schools. Tea Club members teach Tea Art to primary school students, who also must pass a practical demonstration exam which qualifies them to participate in public events put on by the Living Art Of Tea Club.
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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.