Monday, December 6, 2010

Taiwanese Traditions: Selling and Brewing Tea

(Click on Photos to Enlarge.)

I have lately become very interested in tea. Tea is grown in Taiwan and you often see tea growing on the side of the road. I have seen Tea fields in Taoyuan on Hu Tou Shan (Tigerhead Mountain), Daxi and Longtan.

Buying tea is an interesting experience. The seller prepares a variety of teas in different price ranges, growing and harvesting methods for you to sample. An evaluation cup is warmed with hot water. Then 5 grams of tea is placed in the cup and 100-Celsius water is poured on it. It is brewed for 6 minutes. Then the seller will take a ceramic spoon and heat it then dip it into the brewed tea so you can smell the aroma of the tea. Then will pour a small cup for you to try.
We recently took a friend to Union Tea in Bade to purchase some tea to take back to America. The seller set up some teas for us to sample. They ranged in price from $30.00 USD to $300.00USD for 600 grams (approximately one pound.) All of the teas were organically grown; some of the teas were harvested by hand and some by machine. The more expensive teas were harvested by hand. You can simply tell when you begin to brew the tea and the leaves unfold. If harvested by hand there is a cluster of three leaves together. Machine harvested tea will have only one leaf and may be cut or torn. As you see a field you can tell the harvest method by the look of the plant. The machine-harvested plants will be flat across the top.

Union Tea has a tea that has been judged as the “Best in the World” by tea masters. It won a competition against teas from sixty other countries. This tea sells for $3 Million NTD for 600 grams. That’s $90,000 USD. But you can buy it in packages of 200 grams, for about the price of a Toyota Prius. That’s a little more than I want to pay for tea.

There is a whole ritual and tradition that goes with drinking tea in Taiwan and so I have learned to brew and serve tea Taiwan style. I purchased a tea table that is made from a large stump of a tree. The table is hollowed out and has a drain in the bottom to drain water from the brewing process. There are a number of varieties of tea tables, some are modern functional stainless steel, while others are made from stones or wood like mine. The wooden and stone ones are much more traditional as they mix function with beauty, which is part of the Chinese mindset.

Brewing Pitcher
 Prior to brewing tea it is necessary to warm the ceramic pots by pouring hot waster into them. Then you put in a small amount of tea, the amount depends on the size of your brewing pot. Pour 100 degree Celsius water over the tea and then pour it out immediately into serving pitcher and then into the cups. This washes the tea leaves and warms the ceramics. Then brew a pot of tea for 20 seconds. Then pour into the serving pitched and then into the cups.

If you don’t have a serving pitcher pour the tea from the brewing pot into each cup. But fill only partway, then fill the cups the remainder of the way. This will keep the tea at a uniform strength. Then rebrew. You can rebrew up to seven times with a high quality tea. (Four times for a lower quality tea.)

Serving Pitcher


Tea Cups

Tea Field photos:  Union Tea Company

No comments:

Post a Comment