In Taiwan, people are growing tea everywhere. You can see farms and plantations in all different stages. Before heading up to AliShan (Ali Mountain range) we stopped at a tea plantation in it’s early stages of development. On this farm, small plastic bags are filled with well-draining soil where tea-cuttings will take root. The farm workers fill thousands of them!
As the farmer at WenShan addressed, cuttings from a mother plant are used to maintain consistent propagation. The farmer here pointed out a key feature of cuttings: that being the tiny little shoot between the leaf and the stem (it’s difficult to see, but it’s there in the picture above). As well, when choosing a cutting from a mother plant, a bottom portion of the stem should be brown and matured, while a top portion should be green and young. Only one leaf is required along with the visible shoot for growing to occur. Cuttings are usually shade-grown so the cuttings establish a root system instead of flowering.
We stopped by at another farm in the area where part of the farmers plantation was organic. Here are some good indicators that a farmer isn’t using pesticides!
I like being on tea farms. The bugs, the fresh smelling soil, the elements of nature, the flush, the fluctuations, the uncertainties, the honest work, the reward; it’s all appealing to me. As you sow the seed, so it shall grow. I’m not sure where tea will take me yet, or how it will influence my livelihood, but vocation or not, I’m just happy to drink tea, run soil through my fingers, and contemplate how those two things are interconnected. Sometimes, just drink tea for the sake of drinking tea, not because it’s healthy, not because it warms you when your cold or cheers you when your down, but for one moment, just drink tea and let it speak for itself. There need not always be a reason to drink tea – it can be that good.
Off topic! Here we go…back on the road to a TRES (Taiwan Research and Extension Station) branch above Sun Moon Lake. This branch has the only driveway I’ve ever seen lined with tea evergreens – and a lake view! We explored the center, cupped a large number of different teas produced at the branch. This is actually amazing, why? because at centers like TRES, they are creating new cultivars that offer new flavors, aromas, colours, and environmental adaptability – amazing, I say! For example, TRES No. 18, otherwise known as Ruby 18, is a cross between a large-leaf Assamica variety and a wild growing Taiwanese tea plant. It can take about 21 years of research and experimentation before the cultivar-to-be goes through registration and appellation. Ruby 18 took more than 50 and was named in 1999. It has an outstanding spicy flavor profile with strong notes of mint, cinnamon, and even pepto bismol?
I’m going to leave it here and start the second part of Day 2 with some slideshow action.