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Jodet in Taiwan: Part IV

Jodet, a flower in the middle of a tea field.
Jodet, a flower in the middle of a tea field.

The next day was the most exciting tea-adventure of my entire life. Many hours of oolong processing took place in Mr.Chen’s factory, but Lorraine and I also traveled through some dangerously unpaved roads to the most picturesque-perfect tea gardens I have ever seen.

Roads on which you see covered over beautiful crisp fog and neatly trimmed tea bushes in extremely high elevation mountains in Fujian Province. We traveled and traveled, and suddenly, it was as if we were transported into tea-heaven.

I was speechless at how well-maintained these gardens were. It was a dangerous endeavor for us, but for Mr.Chen and his team, this was the norm. Fairly impressive, as I now appreciate tea on a whole other scale.

Tea Heaven
Misty Tea Heaven

Some of the actual processing of the oolongs took place by Mr.Chen’s employees while we were traveling through the tea jungles. Mr.Chen surprised us with the adventure in between the day (since we had spent the majority of the time tasting tea, filming, shooting photos and processing). At times, it was challenging to completely understand what was really taking place in the process, with the language barrier between our translator Rebecca.

Visually from what we witnessed first and foremost was that there were several machines used to create the final process. All those words that I had once studied about tea were finally coming to life: pack rolling, dry racking, kneading, bruising, oxidizing, drying, rolling. Wow.

In my next blog post, I will focus more on the educational aspects of how and what was done in the process of creating the oolong we hand-picked in the gardens. I’m excited about sharing all the great visuals and information, and I hope that those who are reading this can also enjoy the experience and memories I brought back home from Nantou.

~Jodet for Samovarlife

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Jodet’s Tea Trip to Taiwan Part I

The tea culture is growing and essentially, so should we. My name is Jodet Ghougassian and I’m the manager at Samovar Tea Lounge, Hayes Valley location. I have been studying tea for about three years. The various flavors and cultures of exploration in the world of tea fascinate me.

Jodet Picking Tealeaves in Taiwan
Jodet Picking Tealeaves in Taiwan

I find that often times, what people don’t know is that tea, much like any other plant, takes great skill and process. How often does one ponder, while sipping their black tea in the morning, “Wow, someone actually hand picked these leaves and spent hours contributing to the final process?” I know I never used to. Until now.

Eventually after understanding how to describe tea and its basic processes, I thought, how amazing would it be if I could actually go out and live on a farm with a tea master who can teach me everything I need to know about the processes of tea? This little dream soon became a goal needing to be accomplished, and that’s where my trip to Taiwan comes in.

On October 12, one of my staff members, Lorraine and I flew to Puli, Taiwan,  a mountainous region three hours outside of Taipei where a large population of tea cultivation takes place. We were staying with a farmer whom I met in May at the World Tea Expo. The farmer, KC Chen and his wife, Katie, welcomed me and Lorraine into their home with open arms.

Lorraine and host Rebecca on the tea bus
Lorraine and host Rebecca on the tea bus

We did not speak the language, nor did we know what to expect. We just shared a common love for tea. We packed our bags and traveled thousands of miles with our Flip camera, and our digitals in hopes of bringing back an experience for our Samovar staff and community. Mr.Chen had arranged for two lovely translators to guide us through the process.

Essentially, the itinerary was to process oolongs and black tea for a whole week from start to finish.  I was so intrigued with the complete tea experience. I feel that that’s not something you can find in a book.  We filmed and processed tea for the week and were able to get some amazing photographs and footage. I hope that the next couple blogs will enrich your knowledge of tea and help bring joy into your life as much as it has to mine.