Recently I attended an event that I believe was a first of its kind here in Taiwan. The Nantou County Government sponsored the Lugu Farmers’ Association to host a public forum on the local specialized industry of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. The renowned tea source of Dong Ding Mountain is located in Lugu Township of Nantou County in Central Taiwan. The event was organized by the United Chinese Art of Tea Promotion Association, and regional representatives from all over the island attended along with many other leading professionals in the field. Along with all these “tea pros” was a full house of tea lovers from all walks of life. It was inspiring to see the level of interest for and commitment to this local traditional treasure of Dong Dong Oolong. A few days before, I had just completed my defense for my MBA thesis on the preservation of the quality and product value of Traditional Taiwan Tea. So needless to say, I was especially interested in this event.
The panel of speakers was initially meant to include a keynote speaker who was a central figure in the promotion of tea as well as a professional tea judge in Nantou County for 40 years. Now in his 80’s, and feeling under the weather at the time of the event, he couldn’t make it. So my tea mentor, who was scheduled to follow his presentation, covered both the historical and current age of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. Presenting as the Director of the Lugu Farmers’ Association department of promotion and senior tea judge, he offered an extensive overview of this world that he grew up in and made his vocation. I loved the images of the beginning of a new era of tea production in this area that began in the 1950’s.
Following the overview of the topic, speakers included the Tea Research Extension Station Director of the Yu Chi (Sun Moon Lake) Branch, a resident of Lugu – who is also a senior judge in tea competitions island-wide. He gave a comprehensive explanation of what makes a high quality traditional Dong Ding Oolong, and how it differs from large-scale modern tea production.
Beyond this were central representatives of Taiwan Tea Culture who offered their perspectives on the consumer’s understanding of specialty teas, classical Chinese music in accompaniment with traditional culture and tea types, tea and poetry, and the promotion of tea regions as agricultural tourist destinations. It certainly was a full panel of professional and academic perspectives, and my Chinese listening ability was definitely on overload by the end of the day!
Of course, being the only very noticeably foreign attendant involves an inevitable trace of self-consciousness, but I have developed enough immunity to this factor over 20 years of living here to not let it be a hindrance. It was a very timely and worthwhile event to experience, and left me feeling all-the-more grateful for being welcomed into this wonderful world of tea.
Let’s not forget the tea! While this very educational event ensued, all attendants enjoyed two wonderful teas brewed and served by local tea club members. The first brew was Dong Ding Oolong that represented the original mid-elevation tea growing region of Lugu Township – from my favorite tea growing locale of Phoenix Village. The second was an aged Dong Ding Oolong that simply imbued the meaning of traditional oolong tea in our current age. This alone was well worth the journey through mid-summer heat to experience.
Andy Kincart is the Sourcing Director for Eco-Cha, Responsibly Sourced Artisan Tea.
Event photos: 陳信綸 ; historical photo and loading image used with permission from Tony Lin.