Hello tea friends, I do hope you are all tea’riffic!
While recovering from my herniated disc (lower back problem) a couple of weeks ago I received a message asking if I would be interested in talking to Paul Adamson, the owner/founder of Beautiful Taiwan Tea. It was too good to pass up so after further communication a date and time was arranged to Skype. Before I reveal the interview I want to say a little about Beautiful Taiwan Tea. This was a company that had been recommended to me by a friend on Steepster after they had tried Taiwanese Dragonwell. A picture she had sent displayed beautiful, large leaves and my interest started there. Even before I was contacted I had already bookmarked their website. Not only do they offer a variety of interesting tea but they do so on the basis of Face To Farmer, basically a scheme that means they work closely with the tea farms and growers themselves. This is beneficial for many reasons, such as fair prices to farmers and to conduct quality inspection of the farms in person. Frankly I believe it’s the way tea is supposed to be enjoyed, ethically and fairly. Here is a link to the Beautiful Taiwan Tea website.
The interview with Paul Adamson
This was my first Skype interview and I was nervous but very excited at the same time. When it came to the start I was met by a man with what I remember to be ‘a friendly face’ and thus began our conversation.
How did you get into tea? – In the US their staple is iced tea and he had that almost every day. His grandmother made ‘British style hot tea’ which is somewhat a part of the culture ‘down South’. It was not until at the age of around 19 that Paul found himself in Taiwan, after travelling to train in martial arts (something he is passionate about still today). Whilst studying he lived at the base of Ali Shan Mountain and a friend served local tea on a regular basis. He found that the tea had the same character and feeling that he experienced when walking in the mountains and this was something he had not known before. Over the time spent there he eventually expanded his tea knowledge and his love of tea officially began.
Why Face To Farmer? As someone that is passionate about tea it is important to know exactly where the tea your drinking comes from and how it’s grown/processed. Face To Farmer “supports family tea farmers and small, local communities” whilst also “negotiating prices directly with farmers” to ensure an ethical and fair price of trade can be met. Not to mention that meeting the farmers face to face means you can also tour the tea garden to give you an understanding of quality, cutting out the surprise of things such as: chemical/dirty soil and generally unclean farms. Also it creates a great chance to invest in smaller (perhaps unknown) tea farms to find something unique or well grown, a tea that may only be purchased local otherwise. As a result of this most teas sold by Beautiful Taiwan Tea are exclusive.
If you were to recommend tea from your website which would you suggest? This answer came in two parts. For a new tea drinker or perhaps one that is still learning Paul recommends Farmer Lee’s Black Tea from Sun Moon Lake. He explains that black tea is a nice starting point for learners as they are probably most used to it. Admittedly that is how I started too, being British it made sense to start with black as it was familiar. What about a tea connoisseur? ShanLinXi Premium High Mountain Oolong or LiShan Premium High Mountain Oolong. Apparently both are connoisseur level and are among two of the most impressive teas that they have to offer. It was at this point that I was informed that most of the tea they sell is actually at connoisseur level.
How long have you been in the tea business? “Five years now selling tea” which is rather a long time. Originally it started with Taiwanese tea only but over the years it has expanded to other countries. Seeing one of their selling points for a “niche tea person that wants good quality tea that doesn’t cost too much” is their use of the Face To Farmer scheme. Something that ensures quality, fairness and friendship whilst sourcing tea. Not to mention their catchphrase “We wont sell any tea we don’t drink ourselves”. The Beautiful Taiwan Tea HQ is in Indiana where Paul and his wife live. Tea is sourced overseas in person two or three times a year whilst scouting, at the end of the trip everything purchased is shipped back in one go to Indiana. This was a more environmentally friendly take on tea shipping. Not only does this make the tea listed in short supply compared to larger companies but it also means they will be fresh because of it. So if you purchase from this company it ships directly from Indiana.
What’s next for Beautiful Taiwan Tea? I was informed about a hiking trip for a few days that Paul is doing in his time off. What tea is he taking? (A question I was all too eager to ask). It turns out he is taking Ding Dong old style Oolong that the company sells. A good sign when a tea shop owner drinks their own tea. Not all is relaxing, as I was also told about some time spent in China and Yunnan with the task of sourcing more tea. As an inside scoop I am told there will be more Pu Erh coming soon, hopefully sometime next year. As of this year there were four new teas sourced.
Is there anything you wish to say to new potential customers? “My only desire is I really hope they like our tea. It’s silly but if they get it and they like it it’s great.”. Which I must say it looks like they are, as the amount of positive reviews and feedback increases non stop and can be seen on their website and Steepster for yourself. With a lot of customers returning for more, Paul states that it’s “Wonderful when people like what you’re doing”. It was a “Fun hobby/passion that turned into something super fun”.
My review lasted an hour but it flew past before I knew it. This is only part of what we spoke about, outside of tea we discussed everything from martials arts (and tea use) to cats (of which the Adamson family has one) and tea culture differences from US to UK. Paul Adamson was easy to talk to and was very friendly and open from the start. It was an absolute pleasure to have met his acquaintance and I hope to again one day in the future.
Outside of the interview I have also been sent some samples to review. They were shipped one day before our interview so I’ve had to wait a few day to receive them, though it must be said that 6 days (which includes a Sunday) is fast shipping from Indiana, US to Leicester, UK.
My box contained the following samples:
Red Jade Black Tea
Fish Hook Green Tea
In the bottom of the box there were two stickers: One with the Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company writing and logo and the other saying ‘I support small family tea farms”. A wonderful little extra gift. Not forgetting a letter starting “Dear Tea Friend” and has an actual hand signed signature on the bottom. A nice touch! Plus a re-cap on the back for steeping parameters should they be required.
I decided during the interview that two teas would be reviewed here while the other three I shall save for SororiTEA Sisters posts. The first two (Farmer Chang’s Green Oolong and Misty Mountain Oolong) shall be reviewed here.
Lets start with Farmer Chang’s Green Oolong.
Have you ever had a single-origin, non-blended tea grown in a pristine environment by a third generation tea farmer? Try our Baozhong! This tea is very smooth and drinkable. It won’t get bitter no matter what you do with it and you’ll get floral notes and a clean feeling from the environment where it’s grown on a small family farm. We classify it as a Green Oolong as it is so close to a green but just barely crosses over the line into Oolong territory. We also have a VERY LIMITED quantity of Competition level BaoZhong from Farmer Chang.
More information on this tea can be found here.
Also as found on the website here is detailed information and pictures on steeping this BaoZhong with a gaiwan. Rather informative for those unsure about brewing this type of tea or perhaps even those new to gaiwan use.
The raw leaves are long, thinly rolled and with some curl. From what I can tell they look full leaf for the most part, I can tell easier after steep once they open. Colour is deep, dark green. Scent is sweet with hints of butter and grass and honeysuckle floral finish.
Ps. While taking pictures my kitten stole a piece of leaf, ate it and ran off!
I will be following the steeping method as in the pictures which is why I thought I would post it.
Leaf – 7g
Gaiwan – 100ml
Water – 85C
Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds and increase of 1 minute each steep after that.
(Note) Why the long steep for a gaiwan? Don’t forget these leaves are big and full so they will take longer to steep in general.
First Steep – 3 minutes 30 seconds
The colour is yellow with a grass, butter and fresh spinach scent.
Despite the long steep the flavour is subtle, even compared to it’s mineral scent. It’s soft and delicate with a hint of butter, grass and flowers (sweetpea). Refreshing due to it’s subtleness though a hint of dryness in the after taste. Further sips reveal some mineral flavours albeit soft, spinach and kale springing to mind.
Second Steep – 4 minutes 30 seconds
Still delicate but an increase of butter and spinach notes. Very clean tasting. No astringency. After taste is of sweetcorn with some dryness though not increased from the first steep ie minimal drynes still.
Third Steep – 5 minutes 30 seconds
At this point it’s starting to become even softer which alleviates the grass flavour. An increase of the dryness is noticeable in the after taste. Still beautifully buttery and the fresh spinach is still poignant.
Fourth Steep – 6 minutes
So much butter and spinach is left in this steep, though it’s short lived and does not linger for long in the after taste.
Fifth Steep – 7 minutes
My last steep. All that really remains is butter and spinach but there has still been no harshness/astringency throughout to speak of. The dryness slowly increased but it still at a reasonable level.
Overall: This was delicate in strength but it’s pure, clean flavours had a beautiful eloquence that made it delicious and special. It’s freshness and quality was wonderful and I will be honest to say it exceeded my expectations. Perhaps the nicest BaoZhong I have had the pleasure of tasting. Note the after steep pictures, they show whole leaf (mostly) and with no imperfections.
Tips: If you do buy this then please remember the long steeping times, as soon as you try it you will find out why.
Misty Mountain Oolong
Grown nearly a mile above sea level and bathed daily in alternate mist and sunshine, this is a proper Gao Shan Cha or “High Mountain Oolong Tea”. Farmer Chung’s tea is expertly grown by him on his family farm in Shanlinxi. As a “winter” harvest, you’ll love the buttery and smooth characteristics; Amber color, medium body, palate cleansing and refreshing! Vacuum sealed at the source!
|Varietal:||Qingxin (Pr. “Ching Sheen”, or Pure Heart)|
|Location:||Shan Lin Xi, Central Taiwan. (Pr. Shahn leen shee”)|
More information on this tea can be found here.
Also some information on the website for steeping this tea can be found here. Again it’s nice to see detailed instructions and pictures. So I will be swapping the gaiwan for a gongfu teapot for this tea.
In raw form the Oolong consist of average size pieces with a beautiful dark and light green colour contrast to them. Also some brown is present and the stems on some appear long.
They have a subtle but sweet and floral scent with a milk after scent.
Leaf – 5g
Gongfu Teapot – 125ml
Water – 85C
Time: 3 minutes and increase accordingly.
First Steep – 3 minutes
Once steeped the colour is light yellow with a soft, floral scent.
Flavour is very soft but bares soft, sweet floral tones. I liken it to gardenia and lily, with a touch of cream in the after taste.
Second Steep – 3 minutes 30 seconds
Still a soft steep but the gardenia is becoming crisp with grass notes. The milk covers my tongue like silk as it slips down. With some sweetness that lingers in the after taste, also with a touch of dryness.
Third Steep – 4 minutes
Still sweet and floral though the milk is toning down to a more buttery affair. Also dryness remains minimal in the after taste though it lingers softly on my tongue.
Fourth Steep – 5 minutes
Buttery flowers with a hint of grass and fresh sweet hay. So soft and delicate in strength and tone, but pure tasting.
Sixth Steep – 6 minutes
Very subtle at this point with very little left. A touch of sweet flowers is all that really remains.
Overall: This was a soft and delicate Oolong with floral and milk notes that developed into butter and grass. Pure and natural tasting with no bitterness and only very minimal dryness. An Oolong that uses very little leaf but gives beautiful flavours despite the soft strength. Note – The after steep picture of the leaf was all one part that was connected at the stem. It is one of the largest full ‘one’ pieces I have found in an Oolong after steep.
Conclusion: I have to say that this was a wonderful introduction to Beautiful Taiwan Tea and with two teas tasted I must say they have upheld their reputation. Both teas were very good quality and are among some of the best I have had before. When it comes to buying from a tea company I believe that quality is key, but it must also be said that schemes such as Face To Farmer makes a good find all the sweeter. With each sip of tea I took I was safe in the knowledge that it was ethically sourced, fairly paid for and that it was grown in a clean environment. Not to mention having the cultivar and other information was a huge bonus.
Out of the two that I tried I favoured the BaoZhong the most. Both were very nice but the BaoZhong had beautiful spinach and butter notes that remained consistent, to me it was extra special. It had the ‘wow’ factor.
Over the next few days I intend to sample the other three teas and review them on SororiTEA Sisters so please keep your eyes open for them. If you want to stay in the know follow SororiTEA Sisters here or a short cut to my most recent posts here.
Until next time. Happy Steeping!