Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 14 Nantou and Taichung

Long day. Stayed up almost all night processing tea, but standing around and learning the nuances is mostly what I did, not that I actually contributed to expediting the process. I stayed up with the farmers for their amusement more than anything else I think. In any case, I learned to identify the amount of churning the primary drying needs in terms of what the steam smells like (acidity still present? Fruity aroma or floral? acrid or charred?) and the sound of the falling leaves hitting the bottom of the dryer. All by experience of course, but improperly dried leaves will hit the bottom with a wet thud instead of a tinkling jewel like sound. Anyway, I will have about 5 lbs. of this Winnie processed Jin Shuan for everyone to taste in a while. I am not sure they are going to be able to sell it anyway, even though this batch was meant for the competition. The weather was perfect that day and they had decided this was the batch, especially the noon batch, which was perfectly sun dried. It would be with supreme irony if it actually won the competition given that I was unable to do most things, like stick myself into the 100 degree roaster and grab the leaves and smell them.
Watched the charcoal fire roasting at the Tung Ting farmer's house, which is Mrs. So my friend, a supermom and one of the few good woman tea craftsman. The charcoal comes from longan trees, and the temperature is also around 100 celsius. The charcoal roasted oolong has always been one of our most prized oolongs that we love.
Headed up amidst dense fog to San Lin She, the High Mountain of about 1600 meters where we pick up our High Mountain Oolong. Didn't fall off any cliffs, but the breathtaking bamboo forest was quite a sight. Taiwan is known for its bamboos, amongst other things, and Meng Zhong Jhu, a large whitish green tall stalk graces everything from charcoal for cooking to tea scoops to furniture.
Off to Taichung, met up with Gene my friend from the States who has been travelling around for months now to learn about his roots. We had a nice convo about what it means to be uniquely Chinese as well as American, but not Chinese American, as it is hard to fit in either culture, and as a result, can fit into both. Of course, not fitting in is fine with me. That means I have an incentive to never settle down and keep moving!
A special thanks to my cousin, who drives me around patiently all around Taiwan mountains in search of teas and farmers. Actually, alot of them are his friends, and meeting the new ones with me seems to be just as much fun for him. He drinks beer and smokes a couple of packs to cheer me on while I processed tea all night.

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