Posts Tagged ‘terroir’

Biodynamic Tea (Camellia Sinensis)

This 40+ foot tall tea tree is biodynamically grown and used as a mother to propagate by seed


In my last entry, I documented the process of making biodynamic black (red) tea here at Finca Luna Nueva, but what makes it Biodynamic?  First, let me lend you these summaries of Biodynamics to become better acquainted with the practice and philosophy:


“The Bio-dynamic Farming and Gardening Method has grown and developed, since 1922, on a foundation of advice and instruction given by the late Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher known for his world-view called Anthroposophy (wisdom of man).
The name ‘Bio-dynamic’ refers to a ‘working with the energies which create and maintain life.’ The term derives from two Greek words ‘bios’ (life) and ‘dynamis’ (energy).”

— BIO-DYNAMICS :- A Short, Practical Introduction


“Biodynamic agriculture is a method of farming that aims to treat the farm as a living system which integrates with the environment, to build healthy, living soil and to prouduce food that nourishes and vitalizes and helps to develop mankind. The underlying principle of biodynamics is making lifegiving compost out of dead organic material. The methods are derived from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and subsequent practitioners.”

— Grasp the Nettle


“Bio-dynamics, though not disparaging of common sense, is concerned essentially with consciousness-expansion in regard to plants, animals and soil. The attempt is made to look into the deeper spirit of nature. Out of this deeper awareness, based on exquisite observation of nature, the approach calls for not letting things run their natural course, but for intensifying certain natural processes (creating optimal animal populations, making special compost preparations, planting selected companion plants at certain cosmic constellations), aiding nature where she is weak after so many centuries of abuse, short-cutting destructive processes, and instead using human intelligence, kindness and good will to foster positive developments.”

— Culture and Horticulture – a philosophy of gardening


Biodynamics is also a certifiable farming practice (Demeter), which is a broader certification than organics, so if you are biodynamic certified, you are organic by default, but the converse is not true, however.


So in one sense, the tea plants here are receiving biodynamic preparations through composting and spray applications, in another sense, we tend to them based on certain lunar cycles and relationships between the moon, sun, planets, and zodiac constellations, and in another sense still, these plants are also subject to the energies and good will generated by the stewards of the land: the farmers dedicated to healing our earth, growing healthy, living, fertile soil, ready to nourish us now and for many generations to come. In a nut-shell, that’s why our tea is biodynamic here at Finca Luna Nueva. It’s also very rare in the sense that this tea is grown sustainably from seed propagated trees whose roots tap deep into the the soil, drawing on the riches of this Rich Coast (Costa Rica). This tea has a living quality about it, a cultivated high vibration; qualities derived from farming practices that go back to the way tea was traditionally raised and revered well before Biodynamics was even defined — and that’s the beauty of Biodynamics; because like any spiritual tradition, it’s a bringing back, a returning, a revitalizing…


Biodynamic compost undulating with life and death – and mycellium! It really is like a living organism




Workings of a Tea Industry

In addition to my last post, I would also like to share some observations about large, established tea industries.

While it is fashionable in the West to think any type of tea (green, oolong, black/red, puerh) can be processed from the one and only species: Camellia Sinensis, this is only true to a limited degree. Particular tea varieties and cultivars have become very suited to certain growing regions and processing techniques over great amounts of time and adaptation, which in a major tea industry, largely dictates what tea will be processed and where. It is true that you could make a green tea from a cultivar suited to making oolong, or that two completely different varieties can be processed exactly the same, but this isn’t taking into account the countless and volatile factors associated with terrior (soil, climate, elevation, sun exposure, cloud cover, rainfall, latitude/longitude, etc.) and farming practices (organic, biodynamic, conventional, intentional, etc) which will greatly determine the quality and taste, and in a well-established tea industry with lots of history, you’ll be hard pressed to find the support needed to maintain such unconventional business practices such as making BaoZhong Tea in Meishan Township, for example. While it could technically be done, most people here would say that doesn’t even make sense?

In a large tea industry, you can’t just set your own price based one what you think the market will endure. There’s a lot of people growing tea here, that would be too crazy. Instead, they enter their tea into major competitions for at least one main reason: to determine a legitimate price within a standardized system. When you enter a tea competition, the price at which your tea can be sold is in accordance with the rank it receives. Your tea is sealed and certified by a third party based on the results of the competition so that consumers can be confident the price matches the quality. This quality, however, is an assessment of a standard, which doesn’t take into account the emotional experience often associated with tea. It’s a scientific approach to tea versus a natural enjoyment of tea. It’s someone telling you this tea is good so you can enjoy it, instead of cultivating the skill to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of any tea.

In the picture above, you’ll notice the boxed-up tea, which after being ranked in a competition was packaged, sealed, certified, and ready to be sold to the public at a market where everyone is doing the same thing.

So a large tea industry, while very restricted in one sense, is very refined in another. Everyone plays by the same rules, which means fair-play, but possibly at the expense of creativity. Not to say people here aren’t creative. Taiwan is known for its beautiful tea ceremony where visual presentation, skill in preparing tea, and experience outweigh any rank in a competition.  My arguments here are definitely askew because I’m learning about tea within the industry, and not as a student of preparing tea in ceremony, for example.

Let’s look at Hawaii as a counter example, where a large ingrained tea industry doesn’t exist, but rather, a cottage tea market in its nascent infancy. Farmers can generally set their own price within certain realistic boundaries, not based on rank in a competition, but based on what they think of as quality, the time of harvest, cost of living, volume of tea, experimentation, etc. There is no well-defined market to tell the farmers how much their tea should cost or what tea “can” be made, so they are in the process of setting the market price and establishing tea’s of a regional terrior (I call this terrior status), essentially telling consumers how much they should be paying and where to go to buy it. And let’s face it; consumers don’t know how much tea “should” cost yet, which is fine. I’m sure most tea industries started out like this. I’m sure there are so many other factors that I’ve overlooked; I don’t mean to insult any of the hard working Hawaiian tea farmers out there! I’m no business student, so please correct me if the information I present here is drastically off.

And again, these are only my limited observations after spending over two months in Taiwan now, and collectively spending six months on tea farms in Hawaii. There are exceptions to everything I’m saying and everything is changing.

I only have a couple more weeks left in Taiwan before returning to Canada. I’m off to visit a teacher of tea, art, and meditation this coming week, and will thoroughly enjoy my final week in the tea-mountains of Taiwan. I have a couple more blog entries I’d like to address; one on being a tea-driver, and another on all the wacky adventures a language-barrier sets you up for!


Amatuer Tea Processing: A Day In The Life

Huh, well wordpress has implemented a new gallery interface, that apparently doesn’t show the descriptive text associated with each picture… Here is a link to my facebook profile with the same album and all of the descriptions for each picture.



Cloudwater Tea: Week 1

At Cloudwater Tea Farm, there are two varieties of Camellia Sinensis; var. assamica and var. sinensis, both of which sprout tea leaves in this tropical landscape that upon flushing require, with a mind clear of internal dialogue, hand plucking. My inceptive tea harvest fell upon the assamica variety, a larger leaf tea bush that has exhibited quality black tea, and so, the first tea that I created would be a hand-picked and processed Hawaiian black tea – var. assamica. After plucking leaves in the categories of one, two, and three leaves with one bud, these leaves, destined to become Hawaiian black tea, withered in the humid tropical climate for some number of hours and offered a change in aroma from crisp fresh apples to not-quite-ripe, sweet bananas.

This brings me to an interesting point regarding tea (and wine): that being terroir – a term (vaguely) describing the make-up of a natural environment in terms of climate, soil, topography, region, and year, among many other changing factors.  This term has always alluded me as it is so commonly thrown around in books and discussions on tea. Only now, upon experiencing terroir first hand in Hawaii do I understand its role and impact on flavor profile and aroma. There is a distinct and consistent smell and taste to the tea here at Cloudwater and that distinction comes from the volcanic Hawaiian soil, the frequent bursts of rain and humid sunshine, the elevation above sea level, and the personal processing method of the farmer. Paradoxically, This is why one tea can never be reproduced again; the terroir (the natural regional environment) is in a constantly changing flux, and thus the nature of the tea is likewise always changing – never the same – which yields to the Japanese saying, ichi-go-ichi-e, “one time, one meeting.” And yet, the tea maintains to some degree, a consistent and distinct Hawaiian flavour profile, because while the terroir may be constantly changing, from harvest to harvest, flush to flush, its changing nature too is held subject to the very bounds of nature. It thus becomes a loose interplay between the nexus of change within boundedness.

In picking and processing my first tea, noting the changing aroma, and finally tasting the finished product, one learns more about terroir, but it is also just as important to experience what the tea experiences, from the same soil in your hands, to rain on your face, and the sun on your skin (ideally over a great length of time) – then, one gains an experiential understanding of what terrior really means.

Tea isn’t just about tea; it’s about labour on a farm, picking up deadened lauhala leaves, experiencing the same forces of nature that the Tea is faced with; it’s about aligning yourself on a parallel path to that of natural flow and becoming a medium through which tea (or any art for that matter) can express itself.


Ok, not ganna lie, I had a big list of events to blog about from my first week here at Cloudwater Tea Farm, but that last segment on terroir ate up way too much time. In summary, besides harvesting and processing tea, I also helped in the major process of building a 200 x 100 foot fence for a goat pasture, digging and filling 30+ trenches for more tea and some pineapples, and I’m reading this great book called Wabi Sabi The Japanese Art of Impermanence which is just outstanding; I already want to read it again before having finished it. I also fed the chickens today… They’re hilarious; I’ll have to save an entire blog entry for mowing the lawn alongside chickens.

All of this has been greatly influenced by my two new mentors, Michelle and Parker, the wonderful farmers here at Cloudwater.

If you’re wondering, I am drinking heaping amounts of tea every day, which is awesome.

ps: sorry for no pictures again; still waiting on my cable in the mail. I’ve taken some GREAT ones though!


What do you really want, and what really matters?