A few days ago, we went to Zhushan （竹山）to visit our friend, Mr. Lou. Mr. Lou is a second generation tea farmer; he's managed his own tea gardens in Shanlin Xi（杉林溪） for over 15 years. While we were chatting with him, he mentioned that he would go to his gardens in Shanlin Xi to oversee the Spring tea harvest. He graciously invited us to join him. We, of course, jumped at this chance.
Our first stop in Shanlin Xi was at Mr. Lou's organic tea garden. This small garden, located about 1100m above sea level, is a wonderful example of eco-friendly farming. Isn't that view absolutely stunning?
While Mr. Lou's primary reason for coming up to Shanlin Xi was to keep an eye on his harvest, he also had an appointment with a government inspector. This inspection was done to ensure that the garden is following organic, eco-friendly, farming practices.
Above, you can see some collected scenes from this beautiful tea garden. Not only does a bamboo sea surround the garden, bamboo also grows alongside the tea bushes. You can also see a lemon tree growing in the garden. Many of the tea leaves are bitten, or have otherwise been damaged by insects. Still, we think that they are very beautiful. We feel like this is a true representation of what an organic Shanlin Xi tea garden should look like. Biologically diverse, without too much interference by man.
After the government inspector left, we headed over to another garden. This garden is located much deeper within Shanlin Xi, and sits at an elevation of about1200m. As you can tell, this one is much larger than Mr. Lou's other garden. When we arrived, the harvest was already well underway. In fact, this garden is so large, that it will take around 10 days to fully harvest by hand.
In some of the relatively flat parts of the garden, it would be possible to use harvester machines. Use of these machines would significantly speed up the harvesting process. Mr. Lou refuses to use these machines. Even though the cost of continuing to employ people to hand harvest the tea is higher, he believes the increase in quality is well worth it. We greatly respect Mr. Lou's commitment to producing the highest quality tea possible. Unfortunately, the use of harvester machines is becoming more and more common in all areas of Taiwan. In Taiwan, there are less and less people willing to do this work.
One of the things that makes Shanlin Xi so ideal for growing tea, also makes it difficult to visit for too long. The weather changes very quickly. Just 30 minutes after the above photos were taken, Shanlin Xi started to get swallowed by mist.
Sunny mornings, and misty afternoons are very common in Shanlin Xi. The mist gets so dense that many families warn their children about going outside in the afternoon. They fear that they might get lost, or be taken by spirits. Because of this weather, many Taiwanese horror films are shot here. We took the rapidly thickening mist as a sign that it was time to head out. We said a fond farewell to Mr. Lou, and went back down the mountain to Zhushan.
Once we arrived back home, we decided to make an unroasted oolong that Mr. Lou had given us.
Mr. Lou's tea is really wonderful. It's very fragrant, and brews up a pleasingly clear, light yellow. The flavor is sweet, and reminds us of flowers in bloom. When we brewed it, we were immediately transported back to the high mountain gardens of Shanlin Xi. We're truly grateful that Mr. Lou chose to share his spring oolong with us. Thank you very much for your time, and we hope that you've enjoyed this journey into the mountain tea gardens of Shanlin Xi. From our family to yours,
The Wang Family.