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Jodet In Taiwan: Part III

loboandjodettea
Mr. Chen, Lorraine, and Jodet sort the leaves for rack drying.

I was not kidding about the Martha Stewart hat, which may I mention, followed me everywhere throughout the entire trip. I felt like an American tourist in the tea gardens of Puli. I wanted to soak all the excitement in; similar to how it feels when you first enter a new museum and you want to learn everything about a particular exhibit… in one hour!

As we entered the gardens, the first thing I received was my own hat and basket. “You have a long day ahead,” said Rebecca to me with a laugh as she pointed us to the bushes.  Floral ladies everywhere, with small razors at the tip of their index fingers surrounded us, quickly picking the best leaves possible in their designated sections.

These ladies are quick. I mean less than 5 seconds a “proper” leaf-kind-of quick. I made my way into the bushes and started picking. I was quickly scolded by one of the only men in the circle, who mentioned to me in Chinese

Tea leaves withering (air drying) under a mesh canopy. (They smelled like apples!)
Tea leaves withering (air drying) under a mesh canopy. (They smelled like apples!)

(Rebecca had to translate) that I was picking them incorrectly. According to Mr. Chen and this man, the proper way to pick leaves is to get them at the edge where the stem meets the leaf and trim them.

It’s important to pick two leafs and a bud. The typhoon had caused the leaves to grow increasingly, and essentially damaged them. This made it more challenging to find a healthy leaf. We spent what seemed liked an entire afternoon picking leaves from one garden to another with these women, as we clicked away at our cameras in the heat.

After we picked the leaves, we went to Mr.Chen’s small factory by the gardens to process the leaves. We set them out on the floor near a mesh netted area where the leaves were left to wither and dry. Ah, the smell of fresh tea leaves. After the leaves dry, we transported them inside the factory where we sorted them and put them on bamboo racks to dry for 20 hours. To think the process it takes to make tea. We wanted to stay awake and anticipate the 20-hour drying period, but we decided to call it a day.

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Jodet’s Tea Trip to Taiwan Part II

Jodet Breathing in the Fragrant Tea Leaf
Jodet Breathing in the Fragrant Tea Leaf

When Lorraine and I first arrived in Taiwan, we were so excited, we were filming and photographing everything. We were ready to engulf ourselves in all of what the tea culture had to offer us, and we did.

At first, we had no idea what we would be doing, since our entire itinerary was in Chinese. We spent the majority of the first day traveling from Taipei to Puli; a four hour drive (on paved roads, of course). By the end of the day, we had visited Mr. Chen’s tea company Bih-lu Tea, met our translator Tinja, and Mr. Chen’s wife Kate and baby daughter.

In the late afternoon, we ended up at a Buddhist Monastery on the top of a mountain for the night. We had a full view of one of the world’s largest and tallest monasteries. It was beautiful.

I of course, almost forgot to mention the highlight of that day—the amount of food we consumed with the commissioners of the monastery along with our team. We even had our very own chef. That day, we found out that Taiwanese people love to eat 12-course meals. We were fine with it.

On that note, the next morning was followed by some great soy milk and sweet bread. It was a lovely experience, as we ate and prepared for our hour-long drive to Mr.Chen’s gardens to start our day picking and processing the beginning stages of tea. That morning, we also met our new translator Rebecca, who was there with us the duration of the trip.

The Beautiful Ladies of Puli. Dressed for Picking Tea.
The Beautiful Ladies of Puli. Dressed for Picking Tea.

A typhoon had damaged the majority of the roads the week before, so it was a wet and semi-dangerous road to travel in. We also had to take a different route since the main bridge to Puli had also collapsed in the damage. It was an interesting experience to say the least.

When we arrived at the gardens in Puli, there were so many women in extremely bright floral printed outfits and similar hats—it was almost as if it was a strategically planned wardrobe coordinated by one of the twenty or so women who surrounded the fields.

It was something I’ve never experienced or seen before, and it made me smile as I entered the tea gardens to join them for the day. I was ready for my own Martha Stewart hat and basket.

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Jodet

When Jodet isn’t busy helping lead the Samovar team, or living in the downstairs basement of Samovar (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration), she’s having herself a cup of Lychee Black. “The Lychee Black is an essence of who I am,” she says. “I love that tea like I love my mom. It’s my favorite tea of all time.”

“I drink it in my office every morning, and at times on my roof top overlooking the water at home while listening to the Idan Raichel Project. Pair it with a jook or an egg bowl, and you have yourself a perfect, warming meal! When Jodet isn’t sipping her Lychee, she’s practicing vinyasa yoga, obsessing about design and architecture, tending to her cat Madison, or flipping through Architectural Digest magazine.”

She has a love for print journalism, fashion photography, Chinese herbs and acupuncture, white wine and fine dining, and of course, the tea culture and its many meticulous details.

Jodet speaks Farsi , Armenian, English (of course), and is currently studying Spanish with the intent to become fluent. She’s attending school for her MBA.

“I grew up drinking tea from really beautiful, authentic, gold-plated, traditional Samovars in Iran. Tea has been an important part of my life since childhood.”

Ambassador Jodet
Ambassador Jodet
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Jodet, Samovar Leader Reports on her Learnings

Jodet
Jodet

“Work is love made visible. Everything else is secondary.”

I have learned this past year just how much love one can have for something they believe strongly in. It could be a cause, a person, a book, or in my case, the essence of tea culture and everything it stands for at Samovar Tea Lounge: Community, vitality, equanimity.

So, yes…I have learned an immense amount this year. I feel that if I were to break down the myriad of things that I have learned, I could write a whole book. Just to sum it down, I would say this: I have truly learned the beauty of patience. If it were not for patience, I may have pulled away from management a very long time ago. I have learned that dedication and hard work…really pay off.

I have learned through the team and my experiences that respect is not granted to anyone or anything. I have learned this through my interaction with the staff and the way they treat me now, in comparison to the first week I came here.

I have learned how truly the way you feel and think affects those around you; especially a team in which you are leading. I have learned to separate myself from situations where I felt I could act on emotion, and really learned to put the well-being of a team ahead of my own “thoughts and misconceptions.” I have learned that “what you think is really happening, is not always an accurate reality of your truth.” By this I mean….remembering not to make assumptions. I still have a tough time w/ this one.

I have learned that the way others feel or behave is not a direct reflection of who you are—that doing your best, is your best. No more, no less. I obviously don’t need reassurance in my skills—not anymore to say the least. I know I do well. It shows through the effort I have put out.

I remember when I first started managing, I wanted so much to be reassured that I was doing well. I constantly felt that others actions and problems were always my fault. I felt insecure, fearful that I would not do well, that the staff would not “favor me,” and that I was not cut out for the job. Slowly……very slowly, but surely, things changed. I stopped thinking negative, and starting bringing in the positive.

With confidence, and time, thank God for TIME, I have truly learned that I am not the center of my own universe. I have learned what is truly important in life. Listening. Trusting. Letting go. Believing. Acting w/ intention and integrity. Being effective w/ words. Engaging. Inspiring. Smiling. Paying attention to detail. Being aware. Being kind. Being compassionate. And being open to everyone and everything around me.

Managing a business like Samovar is like a puzzle—every single piece counts; from the team, to pouring tea, to tea inventory, to the food, to COGS, to payroll, to customer feedback, to employee retention. The list goes on. Its endless.

And that’s only half of what I have learned at Samovar Tea Lounge. To be continued….next year.