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 most commonly referred to trait in Leafhopper Tea is a honey-essence note in the fragrance as well as the flavor profile. This hint of honey varies greatly from batch to batch of "bug bitten tea", as it is also referred to locally. But the most general characteristic of this tea type is its bold complexity of aroma and flavor. It simply has a substance that clearly distinguishes it from a standard High Mountain Tea.
Above we see a local tea picker turning in freshly picked leaves to be weighed and recorded for commission. These new-growth, tender leaves were harvested on a beautiful sunny day at about 1500 meters elevation in the Shan Lin Xi tea growing region in southern Nantou County, central Taiwan.
Our expressed intention in sharing this batch of tea is to offer Eco-Cha Tea Club members a chance to experience the original unroasted flavor profile of a tea type that, in the local Taiwanese dialect, is simply called "Leafhopper Tea".