Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 13 Nantou

Mr. Bamboola has a head of white hair, a glowing red face, and one of the last bastions of the Chinese puzzle locks. Excitedly he shows off his latest invention, a menu box that no customer in the world can open. Ancient Chinese locks were famous for their ingenuity and challenge, and no keys are required except your intelligence. Mr. Bamboola has not only preserved this dying art, but also, made advances, contributing to his complete head of white hair. No matter. I was far from able to open most of the boxes, but I was there to find some new beautiful bamboo teawares. Exceptionally expensive, meticulously fitted, and breathtakingly beautiful, they have a natural yet polished look, functional and ingenuous. Most of the bamboo walls at the teashop at Teance are from Mr. Bamboola courtesy of his partners at PlyBoo USA, and we are testaments to their longlasting and natural beauty. I broke down and got one of those puzzle menu boxes, as I will try to frustrate my partner Mr. Cheng with it when I return.
What a genius Mr. Bamboola was, a character again from another era. What did he major in college? He replied, animal husbandry. So you see, there are exceptions to everything in life.

Mr. Liu , tea judge and expert tea maker, Nantou, Taiwan.

Mr. Liu talks a mile a minute, cutting between Mandarin, Taiwanese, and some very local slang no one understands the entymology of. However, his expertise and knowledge is formidable, as he has served as tea judge for over 10 years, and his dedication to the perfection of his teas is extreme. For example, his Four Seasons and Jin Shuan Oolongs are naturally organic. He explains the reasons for the fact that they are organic, and they are far from commercial reasons.
His hillsides are meticulously trimmed and neat, and some small bug bites are visible everywhere on the leaves. However, the tea aphids are welcome as they eat the bitter juices off of the leaves, leaving the sweet juices. Therefore, although not every leaf will be perfect looking, nonetheless, the leaves will be very sweet. Therefore, to achieve this sweetness, Mr. Liu never applies pesticide. He explains further that the organic fertilizers he uses are pulp soybeans and pulp potatoes. These natural fertilizers take about 2 weeks to break down in the soil, and the tea plants will absorb it slowly, and it takes 6 weeks to turn around another pickable harvest. Chemical fertilizers take 2 days! For people in the business of tea, the slowness of natural fertilizers make no sense. Mr. Liu is in the ‘Conscience Business’, he says. Tea making is his pride and joy, and being a tea judge, he is not about to lose face at the competition.
His wife makes the bamboo rice, sticks of Taiwanese bamboo stuffed with rice and wild mushrooms and then steamed. I usually eat enough to burst, and then eat some more. I plan to stay up all night to help Mr. Liu process teas because she promised she would steam some more bamboo rice for me in case I worked up a hunger.

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