Our time in Taiwan was a little limited on this trip. We had so much to do and so many people we wanted to visit, but with the wish to make it to Yunnan for the puerh tea harvest pressing in our minds, we tried to keep our time there to a minimum.
We did however carve out a few days to visit some farmers and get into the mountains, making a nice change from the bustle of the cities.
As I’ve been continuing my journey with tea, I’m coming to appreciate more and more the damage that chemicals do, both to the environment, the farmers and the drinkers of the finished tea. I had the opportunity this time to visit one of Taiwan’s most vocal advocates of organic tea – Gao Ding Shi. Mr. Gao goes a step further than organic with his Shengtai (natural farming) methods, not only growing his tea without chemicals, but also without organic fertilisers or pesticides. He manually weeds his tea gardens and has small gardens interspersed with other trees and plants.
It was interesting to talk with him – he turned to Shengtai farming around 18 years ago following the premature death of his father (which he attributes to his father both spraying pesticides and drinking tea with traces of pesticides still on the leaves). In the ensuing years he has watched as the insects returned to his tea gardens and the soil quality steadily improved.
This method of farming requires much more work for less yield than relying on chemicals. Many of neighbours look down on him, saying he is foolish to be working so hard for such a small return and such ‘ugly’ tea that is often bitten by insects. We walked past one of their houses where a group of farmers were sitting playing cards & drinking in the middle of the day with their loud Chinese pop music blasting over the valley. As we reached his house, lit the charcoal and quietly sat and tasted some of his exquisite tea, I felt glad that there were still some people who were willing to put in the extra effort and produce something so special and pure.
As we left, I bought a little of his tea to drink. His teas are produced in too small quantities (and sell at too high a price) for us to bring back to sell, but if anyone would like to taste some and can visit us in Cornwall, I’ll be happy to brew up some of his tea to share.