After a crazy ride through the mountains we arrive in Pinglin. I will learn how they process tea in the factory in this area, which is known for Pouchong oolong, a green oolong that I don’t know well so I’m eager to learn more. I do this from a teacher who works for the government and is very knowledgeable. My guide is the interpreter so I can ask all the questions that I want all day. The school is also a factory where Taiwanese can learn how to process tea and how you can improve the process. It is meant for the local people but through my contact I am honored to have him tell his story to this enthusiastic eager-to-learn tea purchasing agent from The Netherlands;).
As I tell the teacher my story he is touched and tells me that he finds it special that I travel alone to track down real stories, delicious tea and tea farmers while I learn how to prepare tea to make always make the best tea possible. Together we drink in a badly lit office, sipping tea that is so sweet and soft that I start to daydream. In the meantime this magical moment is broken by the largest grasshopper that I’ve ever seen. On my purse…um, I mean IN my purse! As large as my hand! Naturally I want to make many photographs of the amazingly delicious tea that was in front of me so I asked if I could brush the insect away. The men said “NO! it is the dangerous sort. You have to wait otherwise he will prick you and you will need to go to the hospital.” Okay. No photographs of my first delicious Oolong tea in Taiwan.
We gather again around the tea table and my teacher for today begins to prepare and tell. And smoke a pipe. Lots of pipe smoking. Yes, there we go again. I receive some tea and have to describe it. Later it was apparent that he was testing me, but at the time I wasn’t aware because I was so surprised by the flavors of that tea. There were tones in the black tea that I had never tasted before, so sweet and round with a delicious cinnamon-like aroma and a tingly peppery aftertaste. I allowed myself to be completely carried away by this fantastic tea. When I am done I look up and see that my teacher is bowing to me. Uh. I also stand up. Make a bow and ask my guide why we are bowing? ‘He is impressed by the discernment of my taste’, she says. The teacher wants to give me an intensified training in tea. Ha ha, I passed the first test without even knowing. And also drank delicious tea . Next challenge please!