Interview with Tea Farmers – Kevin Liang / Yuchi, Taiwan

A Close Look in Dong Feng's Tea Farm

A Close Look in Dong Feng’s Tea Farm

Dear Tea Lovers,

Thanks to Kevin who accepted my interview and provided me with valuable comments in which some I have not interpreted well in the first interview.  Therefore, I am gonna reblog this with some amendments in both English/ Chinese version, in order to get this interview more close to the original.  In addition, some valuable pictures will be posted here to let you guys know more about what’s in Kevin’s tea farm.

(Special Note: If you are interested in Dong Feng Black Tea after reading this, we are offering FREE TASTING.  Only 50 sets available.  Valid from 2013/8/1~2013/8/31.  CHECK HERE, or go directly to OUR ONLINE STORE.) 

感謝梁大哥接受我訪問,而且給與了我諸多寶貴意見,有很多是我沒有當初沒有理解到位的。所以我決定重新編修訪談稿,以中/英文並行方式發表,以盡量保留訪問的原汁原味。另外,這次加碼附上許多寶貴的照片,讓各位一窺梁大哥茶園之究竟。  

I haven’t updated my blog for like a week.  Sorry about that.  I was quite busy in the past few days.  Here we have a new section in my blog called ” Interview with Tea Farmers”.

This is the first interview which I kept in the draft section for a long time.  It is originally a plain record of  the conversation between me and the tea farmer.  I was not planning to publish it until someone told me he/ she wants to read something specific about the farmer and the farm.  So I looked back at my notes and journal and worked out with my first interview article.

Farmer: Kevin Liang /Dong-Feng Black Tea

Location: Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan

The story of Kevin exactly reflects what I said about Taiwanese tea industry development in I mentioned before.

Due to fierce price competition from foreign tea, the tea plantation acreage in Taiwan decreased dramatically in recent years as some people abandoned their farm and went for an easier job in the city. 

He is one of the young people who left hometown when the tea business was in downturn.  The difference is he come back and rejoin the tea ranks…

 Q: Please talk about the history of Dong Feng Black Tea

A: I was grown up in Lugu, Nantou (the origin of Dong-Ding Oolong) with our family who lived and grew tea in Lugu for generations.  Tea garden was my playground in my childhood.  I learned the knowledge/ skills of tea, such as tea tasting, the art of tea brewing, the tea garden management, the skills of tea manufacturing, incl. withering, rolling, fermentation, ect…, from the elders in our family.  In 1993, I finished my 2 years term in the army (NOTE 1, in Taiwan, it’s mandatory for male to serve in the army (or the navy/ air force)) and returned to home.  The family elder instructed me to find another job out of Lugu as she thought there was no future staying in Lugu to continue the family tea business.  (NOTE 2, it’s a reflection of tea industry development in Taiwan, that is young people leaving the tea countryside for other jobs in the cities)  Therefore, I left my hometown and finally settled down in Tea Research and Extension Station (before 2003, it was called as Taiwan Tea Experiment Station (TTES), however we will use its new name TRES hereafter)

When I was in TRES, I have access to many historical documents left from Japanese occupation era.  I read many of them.  That was the time I realized my understanding of tea is limited and the passion for tea deep inside my heart has been aroused.  I started to think what I can do to help with the tea development in Taiwan.  In 1999, 921 earthquake hit Taiwan, in order to rebuild hometown and to respond to the governmental revival plan for black tea industry in Yuchi township, I jumped into the rank of producing tea again.  That’s how Dong Feng black tea comes from. 

The Tea Farm of Dong Feng Black Tea

The Tea Farm of Dong Feng Black Tea

問: 請談一談東峰紅茶廠的歷史/沿革/由來

答: 我們家族世代在南投鹿谷種茶,見證了超過半個世紀凍頂烏龍茶的興衰。從小在茶園長大,在耳濡目染之下,也跟著家族長輩學習泡茶品茗、茶園管理、茶葉萎凋、發酵、殺菁、揉捻…品茶製茶等技藝。民國82年,我剛退伍回到老家,當時家族長輩認為鹿谷凍頂烏龍茶產業已經開始走下坡,留在家鄉沒有前途,經過長輩的訓示,我決定出外尋求發展,經過多年在外奔波,最後在南投縣魚池鄉日月潭落地生根,也在當地茶改良場魚池分場任職。

到了茶業改良場之後,接觸到許多日治時代台灣茶葉文獻,赫然發現,原來自己原先對於茶業的了解都僅只限於生產的層面,心中潛藏對於茶葉的熱情又被激起,同時也在思考該怎麼做才能幫助台灣在地的茶業的永續發展。在民國88年,921大地震之後,為了重建家園,也響應政府對於復興魚池鄉紅茶產業的規劃,毅然決然地重新投身製茶的行列,這也是東峰紅茶廠的由來。

Q: What makes Dong Feng black tea different from others?

A: It’s our commitment that makes a different

Nature: Our tea garden is grown by natural farming method without the usage of chemical fertilizer and herbicides.  You could easily found insects and small bugs in our tea garden.  It’s the evidence of natural farming and representing a small, healthy and balanced environment here.

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 1

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 1

Hygiene: We have a high standard in tea manufacturing, in which the requirement of hygiene is the most important and fundamental.  For instance, it is mandatory our people to wear a standard suit of clothing, hat, and mask in the processing of tea making.  We do not lower the standard because the temperature is high or for the convenience of people.  It’s a basic respect to the customers.  You have to respect people first and then they will respect you in return.  That’s why we set our tea manufacturing line next to our selling store.  Our tea factory is completely transparent to our customers through a glass window.  People could see clearly how we are making tea here.  We are doing this based on the confidence in our hygiene management.

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 2

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 2

Health: Fully comply with the two above commitments and Health is a matter of course.

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 3

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 3

問: 東峰紅茶與別人不一樣的地方在哪裡?

答: 我們的三個堅持是自然、安全與健康

自然: 我們的農場使用自然的方式栽培管理茶園,不使用化學肥料及除草劑,茶園裡隨處可見小昆蟲、自成一個自然生態,正是我們堅持自然栽種最有力的證明。

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 4

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm 4

安全: 東峰紅茶廠對於製茶流程的要求嚴格,而其中對於安全衛生要求是最基本的條件,例如、製茶師傅在製茶的過程中,必須穿著規定的服裝、帽子及工作鞋,不能因為天氣炎熱而鬆懈隨便,這是對消費者最基本的尊重,你必須得先去尊重別人,別人才會尊重你。也因為我們對衛生的要求,我們才有這個自信,將製茶的工廠設在茶葉的展場旁邊,以玻璃櫥窗的方式,完全透明地向消費者展示我們製茶的所有細微細緻的地方。

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm5

A Natural Eco System in the Tea Farm5

健康:以最自然的方式栽培,最安全衛生的方式加工生產,方能將茶葉對人體及環境最好的部分表現出來,堅持做到以上兩點,健康的茶就水到渠成。

A Lizard - Dong Feng's little friend in the tree

A Lizard – Dong Feng’s little friend in the tree

 Q: Could you share your experience in making tea?

A: I think the essence of making tea is how to make to the water depart from the tea leaves smoothly.  If too fast,  there will be less flavor in tea.  On the other hand, if too slow, the tea will be dull.  The cell of tea leaf is contains water and tea catechins, theanine and other ingredients.  Those molecules are in equilibrium in normal status.  However, when water molecules leave the cell, the balance in the cell is destroyed, making the remaining molecules collide with each other inside the cell, which is exactly how/ where tea aroma and flavor come from.  Therefore, the water management is the key in producing tea.  In addition, we, Dong Feng Black Tea, will add a extra procedure, ” Tea Storage” after all other producing steps are completed.  Tea Storage is to keep the tea in constant temperature (25°C~28°C)  and constant humidity (70 RH) in order to increase the level of post-fermentation and thus strengthen the flavor of tea.  Normally, Red Jade (aka Ruby Black or TTES 18) will be aged for 3 to 4 months. Red of 4 Seasons and Old Tea Tree Black Tea will be aged for more than 1 yr.

The of tea leaves and the color of liquor

The of tea leaves and the color of liquor

問: 能否將跟大家分享您製茶的心得?

答: 我覺得製茶的真諦就是如何讓水分平順的離開茶葉。若是水分離開茶葉的速度太快,做出來的茶的滋味就會淡,相反的,若是水分離開茶葉的速度過慢,做出來的茶就會缺少活性,主要因為茶葉細胞中充滿水份及兒茶素、茶氨酸等成份,呈現飽和狀態,當水分子離開茶葉時,茶細胞會不平衡而產生碰撞現象,這就是茶葉香氣及滋味的來源,所以水分管理是製茶最重要關鍵。另外,在東峰紅茶製茶完成之後,我們會加一道”藏茶”的工序,就是將剛製好的茶儲藏在恆溫(攝氏25~28度),恆濕(相對溼度70度)的茶倉中置放,用以增加紅茶的熟化(後發酵)程度,並加強茶滋味,一般紅玉紅茶茶是儲藏3至4個月,而四季紅、老欉紅茶則是要儲茶一年以上。

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng - Old Tea Tree Black Tea

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng – Old Tea Tree Black Tea

Q: Will the aroma of tea volatilize in the process of tea storage?  For Green tea and Oolong, it is required to package the tea asap to prevent the aroma from volatilizing.  Why is it different with Black tea?

A: For green tea or Oolong, there is more vitamin C and Catechins left in tea due to lower oxidation.  But for black tea, most vitamin C and Catechins have been transferred into Theaflavins and Thearubigins which have been proven to have the same effect of Antioxidant as does Catechins.  Moreover, Theaflavins and Thearubigins also have the effect of prevention of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.  Since Theaflavins and Thearubigins are relatively stable in structure, the aroma of black tea, unlike green and oolong, will not volatilize as fast as green and oolong do.  The purpose of aging is to increase the transformation of Theaflavins and Thearubigins, and thus to strengthen the flavor of black tea.

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng - Red Jade

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng – Red Jade

問: 儲茶的過程中,茶本身的香氣不會散失嗎?像烏龍茶、綠茶,都是要求製茶完成之後就趕快包裝,以防止茶的香氣逸散。紅茶為什麼不同?

答: 綠茶或烏龍茶,因氧化程度較低,茶中保留較多的維生素C及兒茶素,而紅茶因氧化程度較高,茶葉中的維生素C及茶兒素大都已轉化成茶黃素及茶紅素(跟兒茶素依樣具有抗氧化的功效,並有預防心血管疾病及降血壓的效果),而正因如此,紅茶與綠茶或烏龍茶不同,茶黃質與茶紅質屬於較穩定的結構,在儲茶的過程中,茶葉本身香氣較不會溢散,而熟化的目的,是在於促進更多茶黃質及茶紅質的轉換,對於紅茶入滋味有加強的作用。

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng - Wild Mountain Tea

The Tea Introduction in Dong Feng – Wild Mountain Tea

 Q: Please introduce a typical day in Dong Feng black tea

A:

05:00 A.M. Departure to tea garden for tea plucking.

06:00 A.M. Arrived and started tea plucking which is done by hand not by machine. An interesting note: everyone is wearing waterproof pants because morning dew in tea garden is so heavy which is sign of natural and healthy tea garden.

Tea Plucking in Dong Feng

Tea Plucking in Dong Feng

A 85 years old granny plucking tea

A 85 years old granny plucking tea

06:00 ~ 15:30 During this period, the tea plucking continues, in the meantime, the tea leaves plucked will be simultaneously sent to Dong Feng tea plant for  various processes, including:

Withering: Withering is used to remove excess water from the leaves and allows a very slight amount of oxidation.The leaves can be either put under the sun or left in a cool breezy room to pull moisture out from the leaves.  For black tea, there is usually indoor withering only.  Tea leaves will be collected on the natural withering tile rack for about 18 to 22 hours.  A properly withered tea leaf will become soft and strong which will not be easily broken in the next step “ Rolling”.

Rolling and Pressing: This step is to roll and press the withered tea leafs by hand or by machine, usually done by machine nowadays. Only very exceptional tea is rolled by hand with very small quantity. This step breaks down the structures inside and outside of the leaf cells and thus releases essential oils and some of the leaf juices in the surface of tea leaves, which makes it dissolve in the hot water easily when brewing tea.

De-Lump: In the process of rolling, the tea leaves will be press into lumps.  The temperature of tea leaves tend to rise due to lack of air flow.  Thus, it is necessary to de-lump once in a while to prevent tea leaves from deterioration due to overheat.  Besides, since pekoe needs less time in rolling than tea leaves, it is also needed to separate pekoe from tea leaves when de-lumping.

Fermentation: The purpose of fermentation is to have oxidation effect between chemical component in tea and air, in order to reach certain liquor color, taste and aroma.  In general, fermentation will takes about 4 to 5 hours, from rolling& pressing to drying.

Drying: Drying is the last step.  It removes excessive water from the tea leaves and stops the fermentation.        

The process of making tea could not be stopped once start.  Thus, tea masters usually need to stay up all night when making tea.

This is .... a SPIDER!!!

This is …. a SPIDER!!!

問: 請介紹一下東峰紅茶一天工作的流程?

答: ,

05:00 A.M. 出發到茶園採茶。

06:00 A.M. 開始採茶,(圖3)茶農穿著雨褲採茶,是因為清晨的茶園露水很重的緣故,而露水充足則代表茶園的健康狀況良好。

06:00 ~ 15:30 這段期間內,採茶菁的動作持續進行,在此同時,採下的茶菁第一時間送回到茶廠進行紅茶加工製作的各種工序,包含:

萎凋: 將採好的茶菁平鋪放在自然萎凋架,時間約18~22個小時,萎凋的目的在於讓讓茶菁中的水分平緩的減少,變成柔軟富有彈性,揉捻時不易破碎。

l   揉捻 : 將萎凋後的的茶葉以手工或機器方式加以揉搓揉製,一方面破壞茶葉的組織, 使內含的茶汁與茶的內質和芳香釋出在茶葉表層,與空氣中氧氣結合產生氧化作用,使得在泡茶之時,能夠迅速溶解在熱水之中。

解塊: 揉捻過程中,因為茶葉揉捻過程會讓茶葉中果膠質釋而產生團狀,每隔一段時間,必須迅速將形成團狀之茶葉解塊,避免因為溫度太高而影響紅茶品質。揉捻不能一次完畢,因粗葉比幼葉需要較多之揉捻與壓力,如果幼葉與粗葉揉捻同樣的時間,則幼葉之芽尖將被茶汁烜染,而茶湯亦因過醱酵而損壞。所以在解塊之時也要注意,若幼葉已充分揉捻,須將其自揉捻機移出,與粗葉分開。

發酵: 茶葉醱酵的目的是為了緩和茶葉本身之刺激性,使其自身香氣的發展到最高點。發酵的時間,一般來說,從揉捻開始計時,大約需4~5小時。當茶葉揉捻時,茶汁暴露空氣中,發酵即已開始,直至烘乾時為停止。

乾燥: 發酵好的茶葉,經過烘焙使其乾燥,此為最後的步驟。藉此停止發酵作用以及去除茶葉多餘的水分。

以上製茶工序一旦開始就不能中途停止,所以製茶師傅常常需通宵達旦製茶,分常辛苦。

DSCN0979

I dunno what it is

Q: What keeps you doing this business?

A: I think it is due to the love to my homeland, Taiwan.  Our family has witnessed the rise and fall of Taiwan tea industry.  Before 1960’s, tea is the main export product.  After 1960’s, Taiwan tea started to lose its market share due to price competition.  Many tea farmers changed to other agricultural products.  Tea gardens have been abandoned.  I was one of many young people who left tea farms to look for other jobs that time.  Later I was inspired by the historical document kept in Yuchi TRES, and started to think the future of Taiwan tea industry.  I believe we must develop tea industry in a more delicate way.  This is what keeps Dong Feng Black moving.  We want to keep our commitment to produce specialty tea in a natural, safe and healthy way, in hope to share the pleasure of tea with you, the tea lovers.

問: 製茶這麼辛苦,是甚麼支持你在這個領域裡面繼續堅持?

答: 我想是因為一份對於台灣鄉土的熱愛,我們家族見證了台灣茶葉的興衰,60年代以前,茶葉是台灣外銷主力,60年代以後,因為生產成本提高及國際價格競爭的緣故,台灣茶葉在外銷市場上節節敗退,許多茶農紛紛轉業,茶園荒廢,茶葉種植面積也大幅減少,後來我離開老家鹿谷,到了魚池的茶改場,在文獻紀錄中看見了當時日本人對於台灣茶葉規劃的宏大願景,大大受到啟發與激勵,也在思考未來台灣的茶葉發展,我堅信台灣茶葉必須朝精緻化的方向走,這也支持東峰紅茶一路走下去的原動力,我們堅持以自然、安全、健康的做法做出有自己特色的茶,希望能與愛茶的您一同分享愛茶的喜悅。

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6 thoughts on “Interview with Tea Farmers – Kevin Liang / Yuchi, Taiwan

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