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Global warming troubles tea farmers. Traditional tea cultivation areas are facing climate changes that influence the rainfall and temperature. Changes in average rainfalls and temperatures mean that once ideal conditions for example Assam tea cannot be found in the same elevation as before.

Gloom and doom over a tea farm.

Photo by Jakob Montrasio

WHAT THE GLOBAL WARMING MEANS TO A TEA FARM?

A tea farm that has been founded maybe one hundred years ago is now facing deep trouble. Farms have been using lot of money into investments that boost the tea production and into land purchases. Now these traditional tea farms find that their location is not so ideal anymore.

THE QUANTITY OF THE TEA CROP

The quantitiy of the harvested tea has dropped slightly because the changed weather but this is not a catastrophical change because the drop in production is usually compensated by the increase in the prices. The world has learned to drink tea in huge mugs and that has meant increased consuption. This is the reason why the low production quantity is not so pressing issue for a tea grower.

THE QUALITY OF THE TEA CROP

Here comes the trouble. Tea enthusiasts around the world have come to value specific tastes and tea blends and to get those special aromaone needs standard quality teas. Standard quality tea can only be grown in steady conditions. which are now qreatly affected by changing weather patterns stirred by the global warming phenomenon.

Imagine that you grow Assam tea and you have a long supply contract with some big tea company. That tea company supplies tea to the breakfast table of millions of people. Think what effect it would have if consumer would find their favourite tea tasting like – well – something else. Tea drinker would find another brand that suits her taste buds better.

So, my review was a long time coming as my wife so eloquently put it in the previous article – Tea Emperor’s own review post will come soon after mine.

MAKERS OF THE TEA Small tea plantation in Japan under private ownership. Can tea get any more real? Not much!

INSTRUCTIONS Instruction manuals (and asking the way if lost) are for women and engineers. They are helpful if one has no idea about the topic, but useless if one doesn’t know how to read. Luckily I can read and I am rather new to tea. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I drink several big mugs of the damn thing every day, but ceremony and gong fu are far beyond the reach of my skills. Good thing that they include all the necessary guides on their website too, check them here.

COVER LETTER They had included a very comforting cover letter, which told about the teas in question. Sample bags were stabled on to the paper so it was impossible to mix them up and therefore accidentally review a wrong product. Simple and effective not to mention beautiful.

THE TEA Now you know that supportive items were fine, but how about the tea itself?

1st steep for half a minute Refreshing and light taste with sweet aftertaste. Just my kind of a cup of tea that’s what this is, but then again I am from Finland and the strongest spice that we use here is black pepper. We like our food mild and vodka strong and cold. We drink coffee here tea, however, is a drink for old women… Anyway I liked my first cup.

2nd steep for about ten seconds Much stronger and pit over the top for me. I liked the aftertaste though and had high hopes for the third steep. 3rd steep for half a minute again This one already had lost its luster and was easily downed as a refreshing drink. 4th steep for one minute

Frustratingly bland and got quickly thrown away, but the left over green tea salad was fantastic!

A few week ago we received two samples from Obubu Tea, a tea brand produced by local farmers from Kyoto region. Last weekend we started to try one of the samples: Sencha of the Wind.

Following the clear instruction coming along with the sample, we brew it for altogether three steeping, respectively with 20, 10, 30 seconds. As Tea Emperor and I come from different cultural background and have different habits in tea drinking, it makes sense to write our reviews separately in two posts, with some basic introduction of our own background.

As a person growing up in Taiwan, tea culture is not unfamiliar to me. Although not a tea expert nor have I been especially keen drinker for Kung-Fu Tea, I have been used to drinking tea along with lunch or dinner in restaurants or in art tea houses. The most common tea served in Chinese restaurants are for example Oolong, Pu-er, Jasmin or Tei Kuan In.

My first-time experience with real Japanese Sencha was back 2 years ago when I visited Kyoto. There I have had unforgettable experience with the locally produced Sencha and Macha. I simply fell in love with those teas and brought some loose tea leaves of Sencha (Sencha Gold, from UjinoTSUYU, 宇治の露) as well as combination of Sencha and Macha (from Santory, 伊右衛門) , and bags of Macha powders with me back to Finland.

Now residing in Finland I have been having slight problems of finding quality Sencha or Macha tea around, therefore it was a really pleasant surprise for me to find Obubu Tea from Twitter and found that it is possible to get delicate Sencha loose tea and Macha powders directly from farmers in Kyoto region! Personally I have always liked the idea of how the Internet can empower local small players and help them to reach the world. Therefore the existence of Obubu Tea already made me delighted before even tasting their tea.

Now comes my experience with Sencha of the Wind.

The first steeping came with very fresh and mild flavour with pleasant fragrance from tea leaves. Compared to the Sencha Gold which I bought from Uji (near Kyoto), Sencha of the Wind is sweeter, lighter and milder. The second steeping was my favorite, as it brought further out the taste of tea leaves, stronger yet without any bitter after-taste. The third steeping was lighter than the 2nd yet remain its freshness. The instruction recommended 3 steeping altogether, and indeed after the fourth steeping the tea was already too light for me. I don’t know how the name of the tea initially came from but all in all the drinking experience was exactly like breeze of the wind in the spring, sweet, gentle, smooth and pleasant.

After drinking the tea we proceeded to eat the brewed tea leaves with soya sauce. It was amazingly tasty! Interestingly, although being a first-time “tea leaves eater”,  the taste seemed so natural to me, reminding me some fresh side dishes of Japanese cuisines. I ended up finishing all the Sencha leaves as I really loved the flavour of tea leaves dipped in soya sauce. I guess my high appreciation of eating those delicate Sencha tea leaves probably came from my own culinary and cultural background: I often eat tofu, noodles, Japanese sea algae, sushi, and cooked pork stripes with soya sauce, just to name a few. In my experience, as long as the ingredients are fresh with high quality, dipping with soya sauce is often one of the best ways to draw out their original flavour. Those brewed Sencha tea leaves tasted really tender and delicate, honestly I can be easily addicted to this “tea salad”!

That’s from me for now. Tea Emperor’s own review post will come soon after mine.

More info about Obubu Tea can be found from here

Remember I have been looking for a convenient tea infuser with good design? Well, although not being my favorite, this one does catch my eyes:

Designed by Pablo Matteoda from Argentina, Sharky tea infuser has won the 3rd price in the “Beyond Silver” competition organised by designboom.

In designer’s own words:

INFUSION means to extract certain properties from an soluble ingredient such as tea leaves , herbs or fruit by soaking in liquid (water) until it gets saturated. So we can say that a infuser is the in charged of make this happen. This is a ludic point of view about the color given off from the phenomenon, wich makes more interesting the waiting of the whole process.

I like the idea and the way designer interprets the concept with. Comparing to many other tea infusers, this one seems more creative, original with distinctive style.

Unfortunately I do not plan to get Sharky tea infuser to my home. And if I have chance to try it out somewhere, I would rather use it with green tea than for example rooibos tea or any other tea with red tones in order to avoid a “killing shark in my cup”.

Maybe I still prefer to drink my tea with peaceful and soothing mind. That’s what tea is for me.

Designer’s blog is here

So far we have been existing on Twitter for about 1 month, but only started more actively twitting from this week, thanks to all the new friends and followers, it’s been really nice to have you around!

This week we are happy to find many interesting twitterers to follow, to read and learn things about tea, life, zen, health, taste and much more. We decided that from now on every Sunday we will have a small post of Tea- Twits links to record our own twitting activities as well as to re-thank all the friends who share their time and knowledge with us online, through posts or tweets:

Interesting articles we read and tweeted during this week:

Does Richard have perfect pinch?

China – Global Tea Producer (RT  @teaguyspeaks)

Interesting history of Pork Rib Tea, which is actually not “tea” and More about the Pork Rib Tea (our own related post)

Comparing Teabags – Not all teabags are created equal! (RT @englishteastore)

UK Tea Council predicts in 2010 “Afternoon Tea will become more popular during business meetings” (RT @highteasociety)

Taiwan Teachings: A curious tea lover heads across the world

“Wood You Like a Cup of Tea” Pot (RT @teaguyspeaks)

RT @teaformeplease: RT @tea_robot: Loose tea has one tenth the carbon footprint of teabag tea

Special thanks to  @joiedetea who RT our post: Drinking tea – back to the harmony of nature

and to @englishteastore who #followfriday us, to @LittleYellowTPot for adding us to your list, thank you all!!!

We really enjoying twitting, so maybe our weekly Tea-twits list will grow longer and longer all the time?!

Go follow those nice twitterers above and of course, welcome to follow us.

In HuaShan Culture Park , Taipei, the 1914 Connection Cool & Easy Tea is currently on exhibition until March 5, 2010. In this exhibition, a group of Taiwanese young designers born after 90′, present their design works around the concept of “tea”.  In contrast to the traditional tea ceremony and tea pots, their modern design transform the concept of tea into objects that bring sensation and joy to daily life.

You could find tea design in different areas such as designs for a conceptual tea house, tea snack packaging, tea leaves container and tea pots. The design tea pot above is called “Tea Bag”, quite interesting, isn’t it? I like it! Below is a fisherman fishing tea, lovely!

In addition, discussion forums on the topic of tea are held on every Saturday and Sunday during the exhibition, where experts from different field including literature, travel, food, yoga are invited to discuss and share their experience on tea. Some works in the exhibition also explore the relations and dialogues between tea and flowers.

Due to my current residing in Finland, I wasn’t able to see the exhibition in person. Thanks to the social network community I at least get to see some of the tea designs from Flickr.

Below is slideshow of photos taken by  Aeternitas. on Flickr, including HuaShan Culture Park in Taipei and some designs from Cool & Easy Tea Exhibition. Please, go have a look and feel the modern, young, fresh tea design from Taiwan.

More info on the tea design exhibition:

HuaShan Culture Park – Tea (in Chinese)

Other posts related to Taiwan: New fusion kitchen? Taiwanese afternoon tea! Taiwanese Bubble Tea (Pearl Milk Tea)

Other posts related to Design: Hang your tea like hang your T-Shirt?! Blomus – Loose tea infuser

During my visit to Taiwan in December 2009, I found this new fusion kitchen where Taiwanese afternoon tea is served.

Taiwanese afternoon tea? you might wonder. Well, as well-known as English afternoon tea can be, the equally, if not more enthusiastic tea drinkers in Taiwan, surely should develop their own Taiwanese afternoon tea, right?

Taiwanese afternoon tea is a new concept developed by the newly-opened DaiWanMi restaurant. It serves both authentic Taiwanese dishes as well as Taiwanese street snacks with some conceptual fusions from Japan and England. In their take on Taiwanese afternoon tea, the result is common Taiwanese street snacks arranged in Japanese dining style, with a beautiful Chinese tea pot that is reminiscent of an elegant English tea afternoon. Lovely!

My personal experience on the Taiwanese afternoon tea was excellent. Snacks are tasty, visually beautiful, clean, and well presented. The pot in use for the tea, is elegantly designed art tea pot. As for the tea, there are several typical Taiwanese and Chinese tea in options, such as Oolong tea, green tea, jasmine green tea, Pu-er tea.. etc. So Taiwanese afternoon tea here doesn’t refer to any specific kind of tea, but an innovative concept of combining several best elements together to create something very Taiwanese and original.

Some more words about Taiwanese snacks: they refer to big varieties of food locally developed in Taiwan, commonly seen on the street and night market and very well-known in Chinese speaking world for their original and delicious tastes. If you ask anybody from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, what comes to their mind when thinking about Taiwan, I bet that nine out of ten will say Taiwanese snacks and bubble tea.

Therefore the idea of presenting Taiwanese snacks in an elegant style, packed with familiar afternoon tea concept, is to my opinion an really smart move to go international. Indeed, one ambition of DaiWanMi is to bring Taiwanese local taste to international stage. DaiWanMi means “original taste from Taiwan”, pronounced in the local dialect Taiwanese. According to the news the restaurant has received some inquiring from China and Malaysia.

Here is TaiWanMi’s website (in Chinese)

Actress Jodie Foster was spotted on a bubble tea break. As you can see, the answer is celebrity association. Now, the Taiwanese bubble milk tea has it made because it is tasty, sweet, possibly vegetarian, non-fattening, soft, milky and chewy – a perfect drink and cake combined. Has anyone else seen a celebrity trotting around with one of these cups?

BRAND TEAS LACED WITH BULK CTC TEA RUINS TEA FOR CONSUMERS

Taiwan’s authorities, namely Control Yuan, claim that some local tea brands are laced with imported leaves and sold under the name of Taiwanese tea, which hurts the interests of consumers.

Tea farm on the beautiful island of Taiwan. Photo by Harry Huang.

ORIGIN MATTERS

Controlling body points out that sellers can blend local tea with imported tea, but tea sellers should clearly indicate the ration of imported tea and local tea. To me this sounds like the complains of the Indian Tea Board that encouraged their tea plantations to grow orthodox specialty tea. The underlying motivator seems to be protectionism.

IMPORTED GREEN GOLD

Taiwan imports around 25,000 tons of tea every year, 74 percent of which comes from Vietnam. The imported tea ends up blended with local tea and sold as a Taiwanese product, this is unreasonable and hurts the interests of consumers.Although Taiwan imports 19,000 tons of tea from Vietnam every year, one cannot find tea labeled as Vietnamese on the local market.

OUT WITH THE BULK

Tea Board of India has asked north-eastern states to focus more on orthodox specialty tea aimed solely at the international markets instead of the bulk “crush, tear and curl” tea, which they are mostly producing at present.

A well-managed tea plantation in India on a scenic area by the railway with steam locomotives.

BETTER TEA QUALITY MEANS MORE MONEY

Tea Board has the idea that the states should follow the Sikkim model while maintaining quality close to that of the Darjeeling crop. In essence it would mean that India would be able to produce larger quantity of high quality teas, which in turn would fetch higher price on international tea markets. This is important, because of the strengthening international trend of tea consumption bodes lucrative markets for high-end teas.

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