Not knowing this was a big holiday weekend in Taiwan, Mid Autumn Moon Festival, I got stuck in traffic driving along the scenic north east coast of Taiwan, I arrived at my favourite tea store which I just learned from my last visit a few weeks ago in Rui Sui, a village located in Hualian country, central east coast of Taiwan, just a bit inland from the shore of the pacific ocean. With my minimal broken Mandalin, I asked if I can stay for one night. They accommodated me and brought me over to the neighbour's outdoor barbecue held in the court yard next to their coffee field. Appreciating the almost full moon ( actual full moon was scheduled for the next night on Sep 9th), however as this was a saturday, adding this unusual haphazard visitor from afar with their daughter who happened to speak fluent Japanse being the master's student at the Kyoto University, the one of the top 10 universities in Japan, I had another incredible encounter thanks to my passion for tea.
This region produces this very rare black tea, called honey black tea, it's made with the very young leaves that are partly eaten by a small insects during the month of June which triggers the tea leaves to add sweet champagne like a soma and taste. This is like Dom Perignon of teas. So beautiful, so sweet!
This tea store is run by 3rd generation tea maker, whose charming wife always welcome guest at their spacious store front. I took a long walk around the neighbourhood to feel the air and to see the landscape of this area. This town is located in a valley slightly ascended from the coastal town, originally used as a place for coffee plantation under Japanese rule. Coffee, teas and various fruits are grown side by side here, as if they all take part in nurturing each other.
After the long morning walk, I found myself being offered a light breakfast with jollyful gentlemen chatting away with the store owner's wife, chewing something. Being in the high spirit awe struck by the beautiful morning view of the valley, I made a short slide show of my walk emphasizing how I was taken by the incredible Jasmine like fragrance of the sweet date flowers. And he pointed to his cheek and says, "you try this, this is the fruit from the tree you speak of" showing me the month full of teeth turned red from the juice from chewing this fruit. I tried, but, had to spit it out, because it was so so so astringent, just made me pucker. I think this is related to the beetle juice or something ... that I once read in a novel written about northern India... I think. I have to look it up, but, I am pretty sure something of that kind. People around me were having fun watching me making face, telling me "your head is going to be hot" whatever that means.......
All teas produced here are hand picked, and the use of small machine that requires constant supervision by masterful eye for perfect oxidation, fermentation, and rolling of tea leaves into the master's signature shape.
I bought some more teas, so that I can share this rate teas that are meant to be produced for local consumption, back to Canada and see how the scent of paradise survives the long journey ahead.