Not much to report from this end.
My Asian ClubMed time (as my friend Laura puts it) has begun though!
This week I took a "tea tasting class." Yes, I had about 40 teeny tiny cups of tea - mostly green...about 12 varieties. It was held in an office-cum-store in a more industrial part of Taipei. The teacher was the owner of a big tea company, ABC Tea, with offices here and in L.A. and Tokyo. He was very charming and full of interesting information.
I attended the class with 5 Aussies, and a young woman from So. Africa and her mom.
At one point, the instructor, Jackson (he's a 60ish man from Taiwan) talked about his good friend who owns Starbucks. They get into it alot about their passions, and the Starbucks owner contends that the Chinese art of brewing/drinking/savoring tea just doesn't jibe with the American lifestyle, to which Miss South Africa replied, "that's because Americans aren't cultured." Hmm...thems fightin' words. Well, maybe I'll bring a little Asian culture back home and have a welcome home tea party! The era of keg parties has ended.
Besides that little unecessary wrinkle, it was a really enjoyable class. I learned that you drink tea much like you drink wine. First you observe the color - either golden, amber or green. Then you close your eyes and hold the small, round cup
(NOT MUG!) up to your nose and SMELL. mmm. Then, you sip but don't swallow just yet - you "chew" the tea - kind of swish it around before swallowing. I'm sure you don't do this with every sip though!
The owner/instructor told us about a very special, rare oolong tea grown on Er Mei Mountain, Hsin-Chu, Taiwan which Queen Victoria dubbed, "Oriental Beauty." It's rare because its tender, white tipped buds are harvested only within the first 15 days of July from this mountain only when these special fly larvae start eating the leaves of the tea plants. They're special flies because they cannot survive anywhere else in the world (flynappers were unsuccessful in their attempts to cultivate this tea plant elsewhere).
I'm a little hazy about the significance of the flies though. Jackson said there was a chemical reaction when the larvae eats the tea leaves...but then I did some research and this is what I found: "Oriental Beauty is no ordinary cup of brew - its flavour comes from insects that live and breed in the tea leaves. The bugs deposit their egg sacks in a sticky goo, which is harvested and brewed with the tea leaves. This gives the tea its unusual scented flavour, like an Earl Grey but earthier and more robust. All Oriental Beauty is organically grown, otherwise the insects would die, and the unique tea would be just another warm drink," so says Brent Hannon on Travelintelligence.net). No wonder Jackson wouldn't tell me the truth when I asked him what the deal was with the flies (if the egg sac story is true). But Sujoy told me that HE was told that once the flies appear, that's when the buds need to be picked, otherwise the flavor won't be up to par. So there's a bit of mystery surrounding this tea, which is also known as Champagne Oolong.
The Oriental Beauty was not my favorite tea though. I enjoyed the Pouchong Oolong, which is a fragrant golden brew.
I bought a really cool, easy to brew teapot. Jackson told us that it was invented by a junior high school student (I think he was from Japan). He got $100,000 for the patent. Not too shabby!
Jackson let us keep our little tea cup and gave us all samples of tea, candy made from green tea and a handout on the history and health benefits of tea.
After the class I came home and went to a local shop and bought some beautiful blue porcelain cups with a raised pattern of dragons for $1.00 each (USD).
I think I'm ready for my tea party.
Bring on the cultcha!!!