At the end of June 2012, Indian Tea Board Chairman Bhanu led a high-powered tea delegation, comprised of members of the ITA, UPASI, DTA, and Exporters Association, to Taiwan. I was lucky enough to be a part of this delegation and to introduce the newly coined name “Xi Fang Mei Ren” for Darjeeling tea, which is admired in Taiwan. We visited the Tea Experimentation Center, Agricultural Council, Taiwan Tea Manufacturers Association (TTMA), India Taiwan Association, Taiwan Tea Corporation, and Taipei Food Expo as well as some tea companies.
The delegation’s focus was innovative ways in which tea’s reach is being expanded in Taiwan, as in bubble tea and many RTDs. This very business-like stand taken by a government delegation represented a c-change for the Tea Board and was very welcome.
Taiwan is a small country with a full range of its own teas, yet open to everything with value and taste. Its oolong teas deliver great flavors, and aging them has created a new world of tea.
Many lessons were learned by this delegation. Among the most significant was the importance of soil conservation. We saw a demonstration plot where naked earth, grass, and tea-planted soils were exposed to rain. A 15-degree slope lost the most soil when it was naked, half of its soil when it was covered with grass, and almost no soil when it was planted with tea. The demonstration made me recall a speech by Dr. NK Jain in Darjeeling in 1979 when he said tea is the best man-made forest cover to conserve soil because it is multi-layered and almost complete.
Taiwan has its own tea culture and tea pottery and has developed a corning glassware range of tea equipment, which has made tea brewing much simpler. Traditional oolong tea pots are slowly being replaced by this transparent sparkling teaware, which enhances the beauty of this pale brew. Taiwan has seen many changes in its almost 500-year-old tea industry, influenced perhaps most by Japan, but also by other tea-growing regions. Assam is purportedly an indigeneous plant there, but Dong Fang Mei Ren – or Oriental Beauty – is Taiwan’s most famous tea.
The Tea Manufacturers Association has enthusiastically endorsed the exchange of information and the exploration of other tea markets. We will soon have yet another delegation underway this November to attend another tea show organized by the TTMA.