Just a few weeks ago, I attended a Taiwanese Tea Workshop. It was run by two tea-loving friends, Hongyuan and Jacquelyn, who recently set up a little tea education outfit called Pekoe & Imp. They’d been regaling me with lovely tales of their Taiwan tea pilgrimages, and I was eager to sample the stash they’d acquired from these trips.
I also know that they are extremely detail-oriented people, and that I’d get plenty of information and some lovingly prepared brews from this session. Pekoe & Imp is all about educating people in Singapore about unblended teas and the diversity of flavors they offer. Because Jacquelyn and Hongyuan do this purely for passion and not-for-profit, they utilize a pop-up concept and have been holding their tea workshops in several cafes and boutique shops. For this Taiwanese tea workshop, it was fittingly held at Sunnyhills, a famous Taiwanese pineapple cake shop that has a branch in Singapore.
So what did I learn during this delightful 2.5-hour workshop?
Taiwanese tea is not just about oolongs.
During the workshop, I got to try a Taiwanese green tea – Bi Luo Chun from Sanxia, New Taipei. It was a subtle brew with hints of grass and longan. Apparently, delicate light teas are all the rage in Taiwan now.
I also got to sample a red tea from Yuchi, Nantou that had an intriguing sandalwood fragrance and minty aftertaste. There were also aged teas in the form of a 24-year-old Lugu oolong and a Nantou smoked tea that had been re-roasted.
Of course, there was good attention paid to the wide spectrum of Taiwanese oolongs – and for the first time, I discovered the buttery, nutty notes of Da Yu Ling and even drank my best Oriental Beauty yet – this one from a Hsinchu winter crop. One male participant described this particular brew as “evocative as a beautiful, sophisticated lady who suddenly enters a room” – which brings me to my next point.
Tea is best appreciated in a friendly, non-judgmental environment.
The whole set-up of this workshop was casual and intimate, and Jacquelyn and Hongyuan were very open to questions and opinions at any point during the workshop. As such, it was quite refreshing to be an active participant involved in the dialogue and tasting session as opposed to passively listening/drinking and taking notes. There were some strange adjectives that surfaced – one participant thought one of the teas had a “pee fragrance,” while I was convinced that this certain brew tasted a bit like cockroach.
These are views that may get the more traditional tea teachers/drinkers/masters rather up in arms, so I appreciate the fact that Pekoe & Imp adopt this notion of subjectivity of taste and smell in the tea experience. Everyone ended up giggling and loosening up with such an open sharing.
I was so inspired by this tea workshop that I’ve actually booked a tea trip to Taiwan in July (the Pekoe & Imp ladies have already passed me their meticulous list of must-dos there)!