Mr. Lee in front of his Jin Xuan garden in Mingjian, Nantou County.
Yesterday, we visited a friend in Mingjian. Our friend, Mr. Lee, is a fourth generation tea farmer. His family specializes in the production of black tea. They have several tea gardens, each of which grows a different cultivar.
They grow No.18 Red Jade, No.8 Assam, No.12 Jin Xuan, and a very small amount of No.13 Cui yu. Mr. Lee is very proud of the fact that all of his gardens are maintained without the use of pesticides. He is also a strict proponent of hand picking and follows the one bud, two leaf standard. We mention this because in Mingjian, machines are by far the most common tool used in harvesting tea.
Yesterday, Mr. Lee graciously allowed us to observe his family's spring harvest of their No.12 Jin Xuan.
In the last two pictures above, you can see Mr. Lee removing weeds from the garden. Because this is an organic garden, great care must be taken to remove weeds before they can damage the tea bushes.
At about 7:30 AM, Mr. Lee begins his work for the day. His first task is to gather his tea pickers. Once they’re loaded up into his truck, they head out to the tea garden. After a final set of directions from Mr. Lee, the tea harvest begins.
Here we can see Mr. Lee's eco-farmed, No.12 Jin Xuan garden. It will take his team of experienced pickers about three hours to harvest this garden.
Once the harvest is finished, the next step is to weigh the tea. Harvesters get payed by the kilo. Once the weighing is complete, it's time to break for lunch.
Because Mr. Lee focuses so much on quality, he performs an extra pre-processing step that is not typically done. While still at the garden, Mr. Lee will sort his tea into different leaf grades.
Any leaf that is too large, or that was not picked as one bud, two leaves, will be discarded. This extra step helps ensure the quality of his tea. It's this attention to detail that really sets farmers like Mr. Lee apart.
On the ground, you can see the discarded leaves that failed to make the grade.
Once the sorting is done, Mr. Lee loads up the truck, and heads back to his workshop.
A mornings harvest done! After lunch the harvesters will be dropped off at the next garden.
Back at his workshop, Mr. Lee begins to process the freshly picked tea. The first step is to start the withering process. To do this, Mr. Lee spreads the tea out on bamboo baskets; the tea leaves must be evenly distributed in a thin layer.
If the layer is too thick, then there won't be enough airflow to dry the leaves. This would result in unevenly withered, and thus low quality, tea. The baskets are stacked up on a rack and allowed to wither for about 8 hours.
Because this blog is getting rather long, we have decided to split it up into multiple parts. Part 2, is coming soon!
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Best wishes from our family to yours,
the Wang Family.